As new EU legislation proposes to replace veggie burgers with “veggie discs”, Ceuta’s research reveals how much language can impact shoppers’ choices

A recent vote in the European Parliament saw MEPs agree that the names of vegetarian food products should be revised. The committee proposed that veggie burgers, for instance, should be renamed “veggie discs” whilst other foods like veggie sausages might be renamed “veggie tubes”. 

The legislation was brought forward by French MEP Eric Andrieu after he sought to defend Europe’s food history. However, the decision has provoked widespread debate among businesses in the food industry with many wondering how the ban on traditional nomenclature might affect consumers. Experts in marketing, packaging and branding alike have raised concerns that the new terminology will lead to confusion.

Ceuta Group has surveyed 1,000 consumers across the United Kingdom to discover how the wording of vegetarian and vegan products might affect their choice, as well as how this recent EU legislation might impact their shopping decisions.

The EU legislation is due to cause mass confusion among shoppers

78% of the people polled by Ceuta Group said they do not know what a “veggie disc” is whilst 81% of consumers could not identify what a “veggie tube” might be. Should EU legislation force brands to rename vegetarian burgers and sausages, this research indicates that brands will have to amplify their branding, marketing and packaging to ensure that shoppers know exactly what these products are.

Amelia Boothman, Director of Brand and Innovation Strategy at 1HQ, said: “Removing the word burger makes it harder for consumers to identify what they want and consumers will feel that they are being patronised to.”

What is more concerning is that even when consumers were made aware of what “veggie discs” and “veggie tubes” were, 91% of shoppers said they would much prefer buying the traditionally-named products.

Amelia Boothman continued: “Renaming veggie burgers as veggie discs and renaming veggie sausages as veggie tubes is discouraging people from wanting to buy these products. After all, what sounds more appealing – a veggie disc or a veggie burger? As an industry, we should be encouraging people to eat more sustainably and this will be a huge step backwards.”

Consumers want food and drink products that are sustainable and cruelty-free – and they are even willing to pay more for them

We know that “veggie discs” and “veggie tubes” are likely to dissuade consumers from buying these products, so what alternatives should the food industry explore instead?

Ceuta Group asked 1,000 people across the UK to choose which food product appealed to them the most: Meat-free sausages, vegan sausages, sustainable sausages, cruelty-free sausages or plant-based sausages. The most popular choice was “cruelty-free”, which 30% of people said they would purchase. The second most popular choice was “sustainable”, which 16% of consumers found preferable.

Sustainable Produce Spend Chart Stg2

As Annette D’Abreo, managing director of Ceuta Healthcare, said in Focus Magazine: “Consumers are paying more attention to what they put on their bodies and in their bodies when thinking about health and beauty and food and drink.

“The consumer is king, and healthier, more sustainable choices are now at the forefront of shoppers’ minds.”

Ceuta Group can also reveal that consumers not only prefer food and drink products that are branded as cruelty-free and sustainable; many are also willing to pay more for them too. 45% of people said they would spend more on food and drink that was advertised as cruelty-free, whilst 30% of people would pay more for products that were branded as “sustainable”.

Calls for more clarity around the ingredients in vegetarian and vegan products

85% of non-meat eaters surveyed by Ceuta Group said that vegan and vegetarian foods are always healthier than their meat alternatives. However, Amelia Boothman believes that there should be greater clarity around what exactly goes into these non-meat products.

“Vegetarian and vegan foods are full of various ingredients, not all of which are healthy and many of which are processed,” she said. “People tend to believe that they are always better for you, but McDonalds’ burger, in fact, might be less processed than a lot of the vegan burgers available because it is made from 100% beef.”