Jul 11, 2023 - News

Twin Cities restaurants are choosing "plant-based" over "vegan"

Illustration of a package of meat with the label "vegan" crossed out by a hand writing "plant-based" beside it

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Their menus may not have meat or dairy, but Twin Cities restaurants are increasingly steering clear of the term "vegan."

What's happening: Though plant-based foods are growing in popularity, some businesses are shying away from marketing themselves as vegan because the term can have negative or off-putting connotations, Axios' Jennifer A. Kingson writes.

Why it matters: The two words aren't synonymous. Vegan tends to refer to an all-encompassing lifestyle free of animal products, while plant-based primarily refers to a more lenient diet that can still include dairy or honey.

What they're saying: The term "plant-based" is more inclusive and approachable to people who don't follow a strict lifestyle, therefore widening their customer base, restaurant owners told Axios.

  • Francis Burger Joint's marketing avoids the word "vegan" to attract customers receptive to a meat-free version of a familiar food, but who might feel alienated by a vegan restaurant, co-owner Lindsey Johnston said.

Meanwhile: Plant-based café and wellness center Heal Mpls doesn't use it because it can insinuate the café serves processed foods like fake meat, owner Sierra Miller told Axios.

  • "Our goal is to get veggies and whole ingredients on people's plates," she said.

The other side: Though Herbivorous Butcher is also patronized by omnivores, co-owner Aubry Walch said she has always felt strongly about using the word vegan because their products reflect the lifestyle.

  • "People don't want to use it because it has negative connotations, but plant-based has become a watered-down term that can still allow for animal products. More care comes with 'vegan,'" she added.

Of note: Walch said she and her business partner and brother Kale took over restaurant J. Selby's in January, but they kept the space's existing "plant-based" marketing because it's what customers were used to.

The big picture: No matter the terminology, the goal remains the same — to save more animals and reduce meat consumption, Johnston added.

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