In 1977 The North American Vegetarian Society planted the seed that would become World Vegetarian Day, an international recognition of all things veggie.
In doing so, they hoped that sprouts of joy, compassion, and well-being would ignite across the globe. As we celebrate the fortieth anniversary of that monumental day, it’s clear vegetarianism touches more people than ever before. “Now more than ever, people are going vegan for the animals, their health and the environment. From NFL stars to bodybuilders and doctors, people of all walks of life are choosing healthier vegan foods,” says Casey Kern, Senior Action Team Coordinator for PETA activists.
Fun fact: The number of 99designs contests for vegetarian and cruelty-free brands has been on the rise, from a measly 7 contests in 2008 to a whopping 403 in 2016.
It’s the perfect time for your ethical company to become a key part of the ongoing movement toward an animal-free lifestyle. But like all companies hoping to make an impact and reach a broader audience, your branding matters. A lot. Adhering to a strong set of values doesn’t mean you’re exempt from creating a logo and other brand identity elements that will stand out from the crowd.
Here, we explore some of our favorite ethical companies that have put branding at the forefront. Check them out, get inspired and prepare to give your branding a boost!
5 steps to branding a vegan or vegetarian business
1. Be transparent
If you’re putting the work in to make your brand as ethical, sustainable and eco-conscious as possible, the world deserves to know. Your branding is one of the best ways to be transparent and voice your values to the world. Transparent branding can help attract customers who may not have heard of your company yet, but are committed to purchasing from ethical brands.
Numi Tea, an organic tea company, has been committed to upholding strong ethical values from the start, and these values percolate into all aspects of their branding. From using recycled cardboard packaging to featuring photographs of each tea’s origin on the boxes, Numi’s branding is open and honest. For Numi, being transparent comes naturally with being an ethical brand. “People love knowing where their products come from and how they were sourced. Consumers, particularly vegetarians, vegans and others following a special diet, also love ingredient transparency.”
“Tell your story, and do it transparently. People love knowing where their products come from and how they were sourced.”
There are multiple ways to incorporate transparency into your branding. If you’re committed to donating a portion of each sale to a specific nonprofit, let your customers know. For example, each Numi purchase helps fund Together for H2OPE, a Numi Foundation non-profit initiative to bring clean safe drinking water access to our farming communities. Numi proudly displays this message on their packaging.
Another example of an organic company with transparent branding is VitaTops . Similar to Numi, they stamp their boxes with certified organic and preservative-free labels to draw in customers looking for an all-natural treat. By displaying the nutrition facts on the front, VitaTops ensures customers there will be no surprises in this product. When it comes to being ethical, there’s no need to be shy; tell your customers exactly how they are helping the planet and themselves with clear labeling and straightforward messaging.
2. Go modern
Your ethical business is not the ethical business of the 1970s, proven by the growing number of millennials adopting vegetarian and vegan lifestyles. A New York Times study showed that, “An estimated 12 percent of millennials say they are ‘faithful vegetarians,’ compared with 4 percent of Gen X’ers and 1 percent of baby boomers.” With this in mind, skip the crunchy granola and go modern with your branding.
Ethical body and skincare brand Bloomtown was formed after its founders spent two years in Indonesia witnessing first-hand the devastation caused by palm oil cultivation. While the story behind Bloomtown’s formation is serious, their branding remains airy and youthful. Their botanical logo takes inspiration from their time in Indonesia without being weighed down by the seriousness of their mission. Coincidentally, they were able to connect with an Indonesian designer on 99designs for the design!
“Eco-friendly brands should think outside the box. Ethical doesn’t have to mean serious all the time.”
Bloomtown’s advice to you? Think outside the box. “Don’t be afraid to be modern, trendy and colourful. Also, ethical doesn’t have to mean serious all the time,” says Preyanka Clark Prakash, Co-Founder and Creative Director of Bloomtown.
3. Be unique
Another vegetarian favorite of ours is Louisville Vegan Jerky, a vegan jerky company that isn’t afraid to get weird with their branding. Louisville Vegan Jerky showcases the very best local ingredients alongside the region’s most memorable characters. Each package features the image of a famous Louisvillian: Pete Browning, the first baseball player to get a personalized Louisville Slugger; Enid Yandell, a world-famous sculptor and activist; and Tod Browning, director of the film Dracula.
Not all vegetarians and vegans are the same, which means your branding doesn’t have to be the same as your competitors. Don’t be afraid to go bold and get weird with your branding; it’s okay to be niche within the niche. As LVJ founder Stanley Chase III puts it, “If you can project your taste onto your product, chances are you’ll attract the same kind of people.” Well, that must explain why our kooky clan at 99designs loves Stanley’s jerky!
4. Don’t be afraid of omnivores
When you’re selling a specialized product such as vegetarian food items, it’s easy to fall into the category of niche marketing and while niche marketing has its values, like building an intimate and loyal connection with your customers, being a vegetarian brand doesn’t mean you can’t appeal to the masses as well. All it takes is the right branding.
PlantLX, a vegan cheese company based in Germany, seems to have cracked the code. When they realized that labeling their product as “vegan” would, inevitably, attract vegans (and only vegans), they chose to use “plant-based” instead in their packaging, web design and marketing assets. By avoiding niche labels, PlantLX opened their product to all consumers, regardless of their dietary preferences. “Our mission is to convince people that a 100% plant-based cheese makes way more sense than its dairy alternatives, since it is cheaper and more sustainable and at equal or higher quality,” says the crew at PlantLX.
“If you are going for the mass market, then make your marketing as approachable to as many consumers as possible, regardless of their eco-friendliness or dietary choices.”
Beyond Meat is another vegetarian company who isn’t afraid of omnivores. Just like how Tesla came around and made a better, sexier car that happened to be electric, Beyond Meat aims to make a better, juicier piece of meat that doesn’t involve animals. “Now people want Teslas, and the perception of what an electric car is—or can be—has totally shifted,” says Will Schafer, Beyond Meat’s VP of Marketing. “Similarly, we want to make a better piece of meat—one that’s every bit as delicious, juicy, and nutrient dense as animal-based meat, but without all the baggage. If we want red-blooded meat eaters around the world to embrace plant-based protein and all its benefits, our products and brand need to embody this sort of gut-level appeal.”
You can choose to be more universal in your vegetarian branding by highlighting other valuable aspects of your product, such as your cutting-edge technology or low prices, or even by broadening the range of stores that sell your product. Or, take a note from PlantLX and Beyond Meat and hype up the visceral appeal of your product so it’s irresistable to everyone, omnivores included.
5. Be social
With hashtags like #GoVegan and #MeatlessMonday trending across the globe, you have more opportunity than ever to find and connect with ethical-minded customers. Use social media to your advantage to spread brand awareness and share your positive message.
Beyond Meat is a great example of a brand that uses social media to create a sense of community amongst its veggie-friendly fans. In addition to sharing vegetarian health and lifestyle tips daily, Beyond Meat uses authentic, user-generated content to add a human element to their brand. One look at the #BeyondBurger hashtag stream on Twitter reveals hundreds of happy Beyond Meat fans enjoying their meatless burgers. Beyond Meat reshares many of the photos, which shows how much they value the community they’ve worked hard to build. Not only do these authentic photos build a sense of trust and loyalty behind Beyond Meat’s brand, they also help spread positivity around plant-based lifestyles and encourage others to join the movement.
If you’re an ethical brand, social media is the perfect place to let your values shine and let your fans do the talking. Share authentic, meaningful images and articles that speak to your ethical mission and the lifestyle you are trying to promote. If you remain true to your brand and your product, the sense of community should naturally follow.
Happy veggie branding!
Whether you’re an eco-friendly business owner, a vegetarian or vegan, or simply an ethical consumer, we hope you’ve been inspired by these examples of veggie branding done right.
This article was co-written by Marisa Belger.