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Julie Cook Kitchener May 6, 2024 12:47 pm
Hi all,
There are many reasons that people move towards plant-based diets, from concerns about human-caused climate change to better physical health to social influence.
As sustainability and behaviour change professionals, some of you may be promoting more consumption of vegetarian and vegan options in the public sphere. I’ve found some interesting campaigns that communicate in clever ways to influence eating choices. 
According to the World Resources Institute (WRI), a global non-profit sustainability research agency, when it comes to promoting healthy and sustainable diets, language matters. They have a fascinating initiative called Coolfood, which assists the food service industry in reducing their carbon emissions by 25% by 2030, to align with the Paris agreement goals. A few years ago, they conducted an experiment where they created a menu of eight dishes, two of which were vegetarian. They sent it to 1000 consumers online and asked them to choose a meal. They then sent the same menu to another group of consumers, but the menu items were reconfigured differently: the vegetarian options were placed in a box and labelled “vegetarian”. In this group, the number of people who ordered the vegetarian dishes was 56% less. Apparently, when meals are labelled vegetarian, vegan, or meat-free, sales are significantly reduced. This may be in part because people perceive them to be less tasty or enjoyable than meat-based options. 
In another experiment that took place in Sainsburys cafés, they took the meat-free dishes and changed the names of them. They then monitored sales of those items for ten weeks in eight stores versus eight control stores. For example, Sainsburys has a ‘meat-free sausage and mash’ dish. They created an alternative name, “Cumberland spiced veggie sausage and mash”, which increased sales by 76% during that period. This is an impressive shift.
In summary, if you are promoting plant-based diets, consider using less of the following language:
-       Meat-free
-       Vegetarian
-       Vegan
-       Healthy restrictive
….and more of the following:
-       Provenance/origin
-       Flavour
-       Look and feel
If you’d like to watch a video presentation about WRI’s Coolfood initiative, click here.