Products & Launches

Hellmann’s Rebrands Vegan Mayo to Appeal to a Wider Consumer Base

Hellmann’s UK has announced it is renaming its vegan mayo to “Plant-Based Mayo” with the aim of appealing to a broader range of consumers.

The company said its consumer research had shown that the word “vegan” deters some flexitarians, who feel that the product isn’t intended for them. The term “plant-based” is reportedly seen as more inclusive.

The mayo’s recipe has also been altered; it now contains less rapeseed oil, while sunflower oil and xanthan gum have been added. The updated product is currently rolling out at supermarkets in 400ml glass jars and 430ml and 750ml squeezy bottles.

Some other brands are also moving away from the word “vegan”. Magnum — which, like Hellmann’s, is owned by Unilever — has previously launched several plant-based ice creams under the name Magnum Vegan. However, the brand’s latest dairy-free ice cream has the more subtle name Magnum Chill Blueberry Cookie (though the word “vegan” does appear elsewhere on the package).

© Unilever

Plant-based or vegan?

An increasing body of research supports the idea that the way plant-based products are labelled can heavily influence sales. A US study published in February found that just 20% of participants chose a food gift basket marked as “vegan”, while 27% chose a basket marked “plant-based”. When the same basket was labelled “healthy” or “sustainable”, it proved even more popular, with over 40% choosing it.

A report published by the Vegan Society in 2022 concluded that there is conflicting information on whether the term “plant-based” is preferable to “vegan”. It found that “plant-based” may appeal to a broader consumer base, but is less well understood; 35.9% of consumers think a plant-based product can contain small amounts of animal products. The authors suggest that the optimal term may vary depending on the product and the target demographic.

ProVeg International recommends that the words “meat-free”, “vegan”, and “vegetarian” should not be used if a brand wants to appeal to mainstream flexitarian consumers. Instead, provenance, flavour, look, and feel should be emphasised. The organisation also notes that consumer understanding of the term “plant-based” varies widely between countries.

adam and matthew vfc

When the term fits the purpose

Some brands purposely elect to use the word vegan to reflect their mission-driven approach, such as VFC, which as an activist-led team finds it important to state the word ‘vegan’ as a clear message regarding its ethics, rather than label its products with the vaguer, often ambiguous and misused term ‘plant-based’. “We are vegan activists first and food producers second,” said the fast-growing UK brand.

On the other hand, due to stereotypes surrounding the word, some people — such as entrepreneur and investor Lia Carlucci — have even changed the way they refer to their own diets.

“The best decision I made five years ago: Switched saying ‘vegan’ to ‘plant-forward’,” said Carlucci on LinkedIn. “Here’s how things changed for me – people judge less and are more curious, it sparked more open conversations about my diet. All from one small change. And you’ll be surprised how changing your language affects other people’s perceptions.”

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