Poll: 'Vegan' is the least-appealing food word in existence

In charge of the office snacks? Firing up the grill for some coworkers this Memorial Day and planning to fire up some plant-based patties? While food allergies and dietary restrictions are increasingly common in the workplace — or, at least, accommodations for such restrictions are — there’s one word you might want to avoid when setting the office lunch menu or socializing the plate of meat/dairy/everything-free cookies you just brought in: “vegan.”

Poll: No ‘vegan’ food, please and thank you

A new poll from Morning Consult, looking at consumer food trends nationwide, finds that “vegan” is far and away the word most likely to make consumers less likely to buy or consume a product, with 35% saying the term repelled them versus just 17% who said the term made a product more appealing.

Vegan was followed closely on the most-repulsive list by “diet” (31%), “sugar-free” (20%), and “fat-free” (19%).

Highlighting the lack of something — as with “sugar-free” and “fat-free” — was evidently a huge turn off to consumers. Who wants the treat that’s less sweet or less filling?

It’s less clear why “vegan” — simply meaning “using or containing no animal products” — is so disfavored. Plenty of foods that one might not think of as vegan (say, many varieties of corn chips and potato chips) would apparently become less appealing if explicitly labelled as such.

These are the most-appealing food words

The most appealing food words the poll found were: “Fresh,” “Farm fresh,” and “Sourced from American farmers.” Eighty-one percent of Americans say a food or beverage is more appealing if labelled “fresh.”

American consumers not willing to pay more for animal welfare or environmental stewardship

The poll also asked consumers if they’d pay 50 cents more on a $5 item for a host of reasons. Least likely to get Americans to cough up the extra half dollar: “Packaging makes note of animal welfare in sourcing of the product” and “Packaging makes note of the company’s commitment to the environment” (both with 82% of people saying they wouldn’t pay extra).

What would consumers pay extra for? Forty-five percent of respondents said they’d pay more for “A brand name you know and like” and 37% said the same if a product were labelled as “Made in the United States.”