Posted on January 24, 2015
In promoting vegan eating, advocates must overcome the barrier that many people are unfamiliar with vegan food, and may even have negative stereotypes of what vegan food looks like and how it tastes. In addition to selling the public on the animal welfare, environmental, and/or health reasons to move toward vegan eating, advocates will be more likely to succeed if they can persuade the public that vegan food is both delicious and accessible.
But what vegan foods do omnivores find most appetizing and accessible? In order to find out, we presented omnivores aged 18 and older with a random selection of 7 vegan food photos out of a set of 21 photos. Each photo was shown one at a time, and the viewer was asked to rate how appetizing they felt the dish was, how likely they would be to order it at a restaurant, and how likely they would be to make the dish at home. All food photos were stock or stock quality images.
The food items shown were as follows: veggie burger; rice and bean burrito; vegetarian “chicken” nuggets; vegetarian “chicken” platter; falafel sandwich; grilled vegetable panini; Indian stir fry; lentil soup; vegetarian “chicken” burrito; vegetable lo mein; roasted potatoes; rice and beans; vegetarian “roast beef” sandwich; garden salad; kidney bean soup; pad thai with tofu; vegetarian sausage; tofu scramble; fried tofu with broccoli; vegetable stir fry; and pasta with tomato sauce.
Approximately 800 participants aged 18 and up took part in the study.
Familiar dishes that happened to be vegan were consistently ranked as most appetizing, most likely to be ordered at a restaurant, and most likely to be cooked at home. The six most popular dishes across all three categories combined were, in descending order: roasted potatoes, pasta with tomato sauce; garden salad; rice and beans; vegetable lo mein; and bean and rice burrito.
Tofu dishes and certain vegetarian meat dishes were least appetizing and least likely to be ordered. All three tofu dishes ranked among the six least popular dishes, and were joined by the vegetarian “roast beef” sandwich, vegetarian sausage, and the vegetarian “chicken” platter. Bean soups also ranked toward the bottom.
Overall scores for each food photo are shown below.
The results suggests that when it comes to promoting vegan food, advocates should focus on familiar vegetable- , grain- , and bean- based dishes (although not bean soups) that the public is accustomed to, and which the public probably does not think of as specifically “vegetarian” dishes.
Tofu dishes, vegetarian meat dishes, and bean soups are least appetizing and least popular and should not be emphasized in vegan advocacy materials. If vegetarian meats must be promoted, among the photos used in this study veggie burgers and vegetarian chicken nuggets fared best – possibly because they are or appear most familiar. If vegetarian meats or beans must be promoted, it may help to present them not as the centerpiece of the dish but as a component part, for example in a vegetarian chili.
In general, vegan advocates and vegan advocacy materials should focus on familiar dishes in the vein of roasted potatoes, pasta with tomato sauce, vegetable stir fry, and so on. Such dishes are seen as most appetizing and most accessible by the general public.
Full Report and Data Set
|Document (with link)||Description|
|Full report||Note: it is large pdf file (31 MB)|
|Supplementary Table 1||Excel spreadsheet|
|Supplementary Table 2||Excel spreadsheet|
|Supplementary Table 3||Excel spreadsheet|
|Data set||SPV file|