Plant-based & Vegan: Are you really ready?

With the plant-based and vegan markets continuing to thrive, many more food businesses are considering new lines to expand their reach — but do you know the differences between plant-based and vegan? In this week’s blog, Pete Martin, Regulatory Director at food labelling company Ashbury, shares his top tips for ensuring your products are compliant.

The key thing to consider, and a point that often catches some businesses and consumers out, is that plant-based does not equal vegan. Honey, for example, is widely recognised as not being vegan, but you may find it in plant-based products.


The term vegan refers to those who aim to eliminate meat and dairy from their diets, but also those who exclude any product (whether it’s food or footwear) from their life if it’s contributed to animal cruelty or exploitation.


Plant-based tends to refer to diets comprising of foods derived from plant sources such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, and nuts – whether for ethical reasons or in pursuit of the perceived health benefits.

Where are you on the scale?

There is no legal definition of what a ‘vegan’ product is in the food information regulations UK, and even the smallest of details — such as the use of natural flavourings, or the type of glue used on labels — can impact some consumers’ decisions.

To overcome the many barriers to naming a product ‘vegan’ and obtaining third party affiliation such as The Vegan Society’s Vegan Trademark, many brands we’re working with are using the description “plant-based” to encompass vegan and vegetarian. Plant-based again does not have a legal definition in UK food information regulations.

With this approach comes another set of challenges to consider — and that’s about the language used to describe how healthy adopting a certain diet might be. ‘Plant-based’ isn’t a synonym for ‘healthy’ and food manufacturers should be wary of making bold claims about the health benefits of their products — particularly in relation to allergens, with the rise of pea allergies thought to be linked to the concentrated use of pea protein in plant-based products.

Pete Martin, Regulatory Director at Ashbury, shares his tips for brands considering the vegan market as a new avenue:

  • Are you truly vegan?

If you’re promoting a product with vegan claims, you need to be evidencing your credentials through certification badges and logos, such as The Vegan Society

  • Consider the risks

You need to consider your commitment to vegan whilst ensuring consumers are kept safe through precautionary ‘may contain’ allergy information. You might not be able to claim vegan if your products are made in a facility which handles non-vegan ingredients (and therefore have potential allergen risks), so if you’re unsure, do check with an expert in product information

  • Be clear and honest

Always be clear and honest about what your individual vegan policy is

  • Consider other factors

Vegan may encompass how a product has been made, how it’s packaged and labelled, and how it’s supplied. Always consider the other factors that could influence your market and balance how you’re going to manage these — for example, even some fruit can be non-vegan due to the wax residue from bugs.


Until next time…

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