Meat-Free meat and vegan leather: The resistance

  • News
  • November 1, 2018
  • Hemma Vara
Meat-Free meat and vegan leather: The resistance

The growth in alternative product offerings has been spurred by a shift in the consumer mindset. Consumers desire alternatives to traditional products because of ethical and/or health reasons. To cater to this demand, there is now an increase in innovative products which use familiar descriptors such as ‘vegan leather’ and ‘nut milk’. Although these descriptors somewhat contradict themselves, they serve to differentiate the products as ‘not vegan’ or ‘dairy free’.

Stakeholders in traditional industries are taking offence to the terms used to label these alternative product offerings, perhaps because these product offerings are reducing their market share.

Businesses have an incentive to use alternative terms to describe their products. Firstly, consumers want to wear and consume products that identify with their values, as well as allow them to move in the same social circles as their peers. Secondly, it is undesirable for a business to market an alternative product in a non-appealing but descriptive way, for example labelling a vegan alternative to chicken as ‘soy-based dairy-free protein balls’. If a business instead labels the product as ‘meat-free chicken chunks’, there is better consumer recognition. The consumer identifies the product as being similar to chicken, but with a guilt-free label.

France has taken the lead by prohibiting vegetarian products from being marketed as traditional animal products. This is on the basis that such product labellings are ‘misleading’ in practice. So for now, ‘soy sausages’ and ‘vegetable steaks’ are off the menu. Elsewhere in Europe, similar sentiments are being shared by the European meat industry, including the
British Meat Processors Association.  

Closer to home, in 2017 The Poultry Industry Association (PIANZ) laid a complaint to the Commerce Commission over product packaging by Sunfed Meats. Although Sunfed’s product is made from pea protein, PIANZ took issue with the picture of the chicken on the packaging and the reference to ‘wild meaty chunks’, saying it was misleading conduct under the Fair Trading Act. Interestingly, Sunfed’s product packaging also refers to ‘Chicken-free chicken’ made from‘ clean lean plant protein’. As the outcome of the Commerce Commission complaint is still under consideration, PIANZ have not yet won.  

Trouble is also brewing in the dairy industry, with Australian lobby group Dairy Connect calling for a labelling crackdown for plant-based milk products. Although Food Standards Australia and New Zealand define milk as a product from the mammary secretions of animals, Webster’s says that milk can be produced from seeds or fruit. It’s therefore debatable whether these alternative milk products are doing any harm, although some producers have opted to use descriptors such as ‘mylk’ and ‘milky’ to further disassociate themselves from ‘milk’. Whether or not consumers appreciate these terms as indicators that the product is not a form of ‘milk’ is debatable.

The alternate naming conflict extends to more than just food, presently invigorating debate within the leather goods industry. The French are again concerned about terms such as ‘vegan leather’ and ‘faux leather’. As the world’s third-largest exporter of leather, the French say that the use of alternate terms is diluting the quality attributes of leather, for example its rot and water-proof nature. This is understandable - some say that vegan leather is a term used too freely, particular when the substitute material is made out of plastic. The term ‘vegan leather’ could well suggest that a particular material has all the benefits of leather, when in fact it does not.

A rational way to consider whether these products are confusing to customers is to picture the alternatives placed next to the real thing instore. If customers are in a hurry, are they likely to pick up the box with a picture of a chicken labelled ‘Chicken-free chicken’ thinking that it is in fact chicken? It depends on the elements of the packaging, and where the emphasis lies. On the other hand, the purchase of a handbag is a more considered experience, where consumers are likely to check product labels and question the nature of the material.

If brand owners want to avoid controversy altogether, one solution is to come up with a new and distinctive trade mark which over time, people will associate with an alternative product offering. For example, Marlow Foods produces meat-free ‘beef steaks’ and other meat alternatives under the trade mark Quorn. Arguably, Quorn has a large enough following that it can use the Quorn trade mark without referring to additional descriptors. This is because consumers immediately associate the Quorn brand with meat-free alternatives.

In the vegan leather world, a common trade name is Piñatex, owned by Ananas Anam. Piñatex is a natural textile made from pineapple leaf fibre, and is known amongst the fashion community as a ‘pineapple leather’. Ananas Anam have built up enough recognition in the brand that any reference to leather is not needed.

For the time being, we eagerly await the outcome of the PIANZ’s commerce commission complaint. This may dictate if New Zealand will take the way of the French, which could have perplexing consequences. Will ‘lab-grown diamonds’ be a banned term? And what are the implications for ‘nice cream’, essentially ‘vegan cream’ made without dairy or cream? Watch this space.


​ ​

This is a community discussion forum. Comment is free but please respect our rules:

  1. Don’t be abusive or use sweary type words
  2. Don’t break the law: libel, slander and defamatory comments are forbidden
  3. Don’t resort to name-calling, mean-spiritedness, or slagging off
  4. Don’t pretend to be someone else.

If we find you doing these things, your comments will be edited without recourse and you may be asked to go away and reconsider your actions.
We respect the right to free speech and anonymous comments. Don’t abuse the privilege.


Military-style semi-automatics ban announced

  • News
  • March 21, 2019
  • The Register team
Military-style semi-automatics ban announced

As of 3pm on March 21, a wide range of semi-automatic weapons have been reclassified under section 74A(c) of the Arms Act as requiring an E endorsement on a firearms license. This means they can no longer be sold to those with A-category gun licenses, and their purchase now requires police approval.

Read more

Retailers gather for insights at NZ Retail and The Register's breakfast

  • News
  • March 21, 2019
  • The Register
Retailers gather for insights at NZ Retail and The Register's breakfast

NZ Retail and The Register’s sales and marketing breakfast saw dozens of Kiwi retailers come together to network, sharing tips and tricks and absorbing expert advice.

Read more

Who stole Christmas?

  • News
  • March 21, 2019
  • Kelly Withers
Who stole Christmas?

Results are starting to trickle in from Christmas 2018/2019, and for many retailers, they're a little disappointing. Paydar chief executive and co-founder Kelly Withers explores the data.

Read more

Social scoreboard

Zavy and The Register have worked together to create a scoreboard that compares how the top 25 traditional media advertising spenders in New Zealand have performed on social media over the past 30 days, updated in real time.

Concept to closet
Business coverage of New Zealand Fashion Week.
Town centres
A positive retail environment over the past 12 ...
Amazon Arrival
Keeping up with all things Amazon as it ...
The Retail Yearbook 2017
As we battle our way through the busiest ...
Hospitality enhancing retail
Some think food and integrated hospitality offerings will ...
The future is bright
We spoke with four retailers in their twenties ...
Spotlight on signage
At first glance, the humble in-store sign might ...
Red Awards 2016
The Red Awards for retail interior design celebrate ...
Auckland Unitary Plan
Auckland is changing. The Unitary Plan will decide ...
How to open a store
Sarah Dunn considers what it would take to ...
All things to all people
Kiwi retailers share their omnichannel strategies.
Rising stars
Retail's top young achievers.
Delivering on your promises
The sale isn't over until your item is ...
Retail in heartland New Zealand
Retailers keep the regions pumping, but how strong ...
Women in retail help one another. We spoke ...
The changing face of retail
Shifting demographics are creating big changes in New ...
The retail yearbook
With the help of experts in the retail ...
Retail rogues
We put the spotlight on staff training. Jai ...
Here come the giants
Topshop has arrived in Auckland’s CBD, David Jones ...
Window shopping: A spotlight on social media
Sarah Dunn and Elly Strang look at how ...
From retail to e-tail
Ecommerce has become part of the way mainstream ...
Loyalty in the digital age
How are retailers maintaining loyalty? Sarah Dunn, Elly ...
The Innovators | In partnership with Spark Business
Technology is rapidly changing the retail industry as ...

Chinese businesspeople raise millions for Christchurch victims

  • News
  • March 21, 2019
  • Radio New Zealand
Chinese businesspeople raise millions for Christchurch victims

A group of visiting Chinese businesspeople have raised $2.35 million for victims of the Christchurch mass shooting.

Read more

The Retail NZ Awards: What does it take to be a winning retailer?

Take this time to shine with the upcoming Retail NZ awards, a chance to show the retail industry what makes your business stand out. No ...


Hunting & Fishing New Zealand voluntarily pulls military-style assault weapons from sale

  • News
  • March 20, 2019
  • Sarah Dunn
Hunting & Fishing New Zealand voluntarily pulls military-style assault weapons from sale

In the wake of the attack on Christchurch’s Muslim community on March 15, strong calls for changes to New Zealand’s gun last have been made. Trade Me was the first retailer to act, halting the sale of all semi-automatic weapons on its platform, and it has now been joined by Hunting & Fishing New Zealand.

Read more
Next page
Results for
About us.

The Register provides essential industry news and intelligence, updated daily. And the digital newsletter delivers the latest news to your inbox twice a week — for free!

©2009–2015 Tangible Media. All rights reserved.
Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our Privacy policy.

The Register

Content marketing/advertising? Email or call 022 639 3004

View Media Kit