• Marion Bazzoli

The plant-based VS vegan debate: what about French?

Learn which French translation to choose for your vegan food products
Learn which French translation to choose for your vegan food products (photo credit: Hermes Rivera on Unsplash)

Lately, there has been a lively discussion about which denomination brands should adopt, “plant-based” or “vegan”, when talking about their food products. According to the country and its culture, this choice may differ. Let’s first deal with the English side of the problem, and then review how this debate is transposed in France and can affect your business.

In English: Plant-based VS Vegan

In English, the word “plant-based” literally means the product is based on plants, not necessarily 100% made of plants, as the Cambridge Dictionary states it. So labelling a product as “plant-based” could be confusing to vegans.

The British Standards Institution agreed on a definition of plant-based. As quoted by The Vegan Society, plant-based foods “may be understood to occupy a position between ‘vegan’ and ‘vegetarian’” and “should not contain any ingredient derived from slaughtered or dead animals; and should contain a maximum of 5% ingredients in the final product that are animal-derived”.

Yet, according to a survey by The Vegan Society, the majority of the respondents thought that “plant-based” was synonymous with “vegan”, and they overall prefer the term “vegan”, probably for its preciseness and clearness.

That’s for the English side of the debate. What about France? Do French people have a preference? Is there a similar issue of word choice?

In French: Végan, végétal, something else?

In France, there is a translation for “vegan”: “végétal”. Yet, you would need to take into account that

  1. the English word is far more popular (but do not forget to put an accent on it, “végan”)

  2. there is a misuse (intentional, purely for marketing purposes) of “végétal” to label vegetarian products (as stated by Vegan France, and yours truly can confirm it).

  3. in Europe, you can say “viande végétale” (plant-based meat) but NOT “lait végétal” (plant-based milk).

So, when selling your food products in France, remember to use appellations such as “boisson végétale” for milk, “fauxmage” or “vromage” for cheese, or “dessert végétal” for yoghurt. In the case of other plant-based food products such as sausages or burgers, “végan” is probably the way to go, especially if you already sell them under this name in your country.

In the end, it depends on your context. If you sell in Europe, always keep in mind to follow the European Parliament’s rules and to be as clear as possible as to your product’s naming.

Would you like someone knowledgeable of the vegan market world to voice your message in French with purposeful translations? Get in touch here or send me an email at hello@frenchvegantranslator.com to tell me about your needs 🌱


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