Fancy a soya slab for dinner? Or a veggie disc? No? How about a couple of protein tubes then?
You could soon be seeing foods like these popping up in the vegetarian aisle of your local supermarket, if the EU’s agricultural committee has its way.
In May, the European Parliament will vote on a bill banning the use of ‘meaty’ names for vegetarian and vegan products. So you can say goodbye to cauliflower steaks and seitan kebabs.
Those supporting the bill claim that labelling vegetarian foods with words traditionally associated with meat is misleading consumers.
“People need to know what they are eating,” said the French MEP in charge of overseeing the bill, Éric Andrieu. [Insert your own joke about the French and vegetarianism here.]
Environmental and food awareness groups, including Greenpeace and ProVeg have objected, saying there’s no evidence that consumers are confused by terms like ‘veggie burger’ or ‘vegan sausage’.
At a time when we all need to eat less meat to save the planet, it’s hard not to see this as a backwards step.
More of us than ever are willing to try meat-free substitutes, from Burger King’s Impossible Whopper to Greggs’ vegan sausage roll (credited with the company’s value hitting an all-time high). Will the new law change that?
If you want people to eat something, you need to make it sound appetising. Familiar words, with familiar flavour and texture associations, help convince people to try new things.
And the right name can help transform a niche product into a household staple. Food brands know this better than anybody, which is why they invest so much time into finding appealing names for their products.
Stricter rules mean brands will need to work harder to find ‘tasty-sounding’ names. And we’re already starting to see more taste-focused names. We recently helped Quorn relaunch some of its products with new names like Love It Lasagne, Tantalising Tikka Masala and Delicious Dippers.
Meat-less, taste more
Vegan and vegetarian food is about so much more than fake meat. If the market really wants to distinguish itself, maybe now’s the time to carve out (ahem) a new meat-free vocabulary.
There’s no time like the present: today’s younger consumers care more that their food tastes great, and less that it looks like a real piece of meat. This generation is well-used to meat alternatives – they’re more interested in knowing how tasty something is than what meat it’s trying to copy.*
Steak or slab, sausage or tube: whatever the results of the EU vote, the vegan and vegetarian food trend shows no sign of slowing down. Our prediction? Brands will move away from talking about what they’re not and instead celebrate the benefits of what they are.
*according to some very scientifically sound research I carried out on my 20-year old vegan sister and her mates.