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Vegan or Plant-Based: How Non-Animal Food is Sold

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Across various markets worldwide, plant-based and vegan labelled foods have become fixtures. Depending on the country, consumers can expect to find options at retail with an ease that was unavailable just a few years ago. As products for diets free of animal-based food have proliferated, however, the issue of how to label them in the most appealing way has lingered. While the term “vegan” is unambiguous and long-standing, the term “plant-based” has achieved popularity more recently. Euromonitor’s health and wellness data allow the state of play to be accurately accessed – are foods labelled “vegan” selling more or less than foods labelled “plant-based”?

Vegan used more at the overall level

At a global level, it is clear that “vegan” generates more sales than “plant-based” across dairy products and alternatives, snacks, cooking ingredients and meals, and staple foods

Source: Euromonitor International

The chart below reveals this, with the caveat that it shows only the value of foods in each category that are specifically labelled as “plant-based” or “vegan” – for example, this does not include dairy products or alternatives labelled “dairy free” if those products do not carry a “vegan” or “plant-based” mark.Plant-based and Vegan-labelled Food across Dairy Products and Alternatives, Cooking Ingredients and  Meals, Snacks and Staple Foods

Variations exist across foods

Overall, it is clear that “vegan” is more likely to be used than “plant-based” (although in dairy there is not much difference). In Staple Foods, for example, “vegan” labelling on basics such as bread and noodles creates a large disparity. Indeed, Euromonitor International’s health and wellness data can go further than the above chart, making it possible to see how the difference plays out across specific types of food.

Value of Plant-based and Vegan Labelled Foods, 2022

Again, vegan is more likely than plant-based – however, there are important variations. Drinking milk products and chocolate confectionery are the standouts; for the former, plant-based is often used, while for the latter, plant-based is used comparatively little.

Sales of drinking milk labelled plant-based are only 28.1% smaller than those of drinking milk labelled vegan, while the equivalent for chocolate confectionery is 87.6% smaller

Source: Euromonitor International

Elsewhere, ready meals sits between the two, with plant-based sales 41.7% smaller than vegan.

Differing preferences below the surface

Euromonitor’s health and wellness data also allow analysis of this question at a country level. And indeed, when examining plant-based and vegan sales in this way, further differences emerge.Percentage of Total Ready Meals Market Made up by Plant-based/Vegan Labelled Options

Despite the global figures’ difference between vegan and plant-based for ready meals, analysis by country reveals that there are some markets where the percentage of the total market is almost equal. Examples include the United Arab Emirates, the US, Australia, Canada and one, New Zealand, where finding a ready meal labelled “plant-based” on shelf is slightly more likely than finding one labelled “vegan”.Percentage of Total Chocolate Confectionery Market Made up by Plant-based/Vegan Labelled Options

The results for chocolate confectionery are more polarised, which is perhaps not surprising given the global figure. But even here, New Zealand and the United Arab Emirates fly the flag for plant-based labelling.

Drinking milk, however, is a different story

Percentage of Plant-based Drinking Milk Market Made up by Plant-based/Vegan Labelled  OptionsHere, there are numerous markets where plant-based reaches the percentage of the total market that vegan does – and indeed three where the former outperforms the latter.

Go beyond the global

While the figures at a global level suggest producers see “vegan” on-pack as a better option than “plant-based”, it becomes clear as the data is interrogated that different products, in different countries, occupy a different position. The clear takeaway is the importance of understanding markets individually, especially at a time when non-animal alternative foods are struggling to see sales growth. “Plant-based” labelling might see a product sink; “vegan” labelling might see a product soar – or vice versa.

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