What’s happening in the vegan world?
Updated: Sep 18
A lot has happened in the vegan food world recently. KFC released a vegan food item (we talked about it here). But also, singer Miley Cyrus, one of the loudest celebrity voices for the veganism movement, announced that she went off the vegan diet.
Search trends over the past week reveal the great curiosity and consternation this caused. In the United States, ‘Miley Cyrus vegan’, ‘Miley Cyrus not vegan’, and ‘Miley Cyrus no longer vegan’ promptly shot up to the top of Google’s breakout search terms.
Bizarrely, ‘was Jesus vegan’ made it to the top too, but let’s not go into that.
On Twitter, the vegan community has been divided, with some parts supportive of Cyrus’ choice and some parts critical, pointing out that there were plenty of vegan options available for Omega-3 (what Cyrus claimed motivated the shift to pescetarianism).
The sheer amount of conversation surrounding what is essentially one person’s personal choice invites comment on the staunchness of the vegan community. Sure, Cyrus has been vocal in her support of Veganism and animal rights over the years, whether that entailed wearing vegan garments from Stella McCartney, getting a tattoo indicating her veganism, or talking about veganism on Instagram. Hence, shock at this sudden change would be fair.
But the criticism and policing that came with it indicates how choosing Veganism meant opting out of the meat-eating norm, an opt-out that comes with expectation of permanence in choice. Cyrus’ move back into non-Veganism was an opting back into a mainstream norm, and this backlash and shock suggests struggle in accepting a fellow community member’s choice for more flexibility.
This also suggests the absoluteness of a Vegan identity - despite greater conversation about flexitarianism and intuitive eating recently, it seems Veganism remains very much a all-in or all-out identity, and being 90% plant-based would not qualify one for claiming a vegan badge of identity.
From a branding standpoint, it would be interesting to see how this absoluteness of vegan identity might inform brand communications within the plant-based FMCG brand world.
Scoping out the 2020 Vegan Beauty Market
In the world of beauty, Vegan Makeup is in vogue. Selena Gomez has most recently released her Rare Beauty line, a cruelty-free, vegan make-up range, joining the list of celebrities who have released vegan makeup lines (Lady Gaga and Kesha recently released vegan ranges too).
Delving deeper into the vegan makeup world, what do we know about consumer interest in this sector?
Studying over 1 million searches across 500+ search terms, we classified them into several broad categories in order to understand the different types of searches for vegan beauty.
We see that for the US, the three most common types of searches related to vegan beauty products were Product Specific (36.7% of total searches related to vegan beauty), followed by Generic searches (30.2%), and searches for Cruelty Free vegan products (19.6%).
In the vegan beauty world, we see a few key customer personas:
The Idea Gatherers: Generic searches were probably coming from people who were still dipping their toe into the vegan pool, gathering ideas, new to this realm. Searches were along the lines of “vegan makeup brands” or “popular vegan makeup”. These people were seeking out more knowledge about what products were out there and what brands were available for choosing from in the vegan market. Within this category, we also see searches for the best products out there - consumers keen on optimising their purchase were looking for the most popular and well-loved brands to start with, to head straight for the best product out there in the market.
The Somewhat Aware Bunch: Product searches were searches with a more focused search intent, related to a specific makeup product, such as “vegan mascara to buy”, “vegan body lotion”, “vegan concealer” or “vegan eyeshadow palette”, suggesting a more informed consumer profile who knew the type of product they wanted to try out.
The Discerning: The sizable portion of searches for cruelty free vegan products suggested to us that there’s a significant portion of consumers who were pretty discerning about the vegan beauty market, knowing that not all cruelty free products were vegan, and not all vegan products were cruelty free. Consumer searches for particular brand-specific vegan products such as It Cosmetics and Bare Minerals and searches for Organic vegan products also suggest a discerning consumer, already aware of what they want to purchase.
How has the COVID19 impacted the US Vegan Beauty Market?
Comparing search interest related to vegan beauty and skincare with a pre-covid (October 2019 to February 2020) and post-covid (March 2020 to August 2020) lens revealed that since Covid, consumers have become more interested in going for affordable vegan products, more so than the other features, such as cruelty-free or organic, or brand names.
In fact, we observe an overall decrease in searches for various niches (luxury, organic, cruelty free) and vague, generic searches on vegan products. Desire to head straight for the best product also increased, suggesting less desire to spend money exploring the vegan brand world, rather cutting straight to the chase.
Communicating The Sensible Vegan Brand
These shifts appear to be driven by key instincts of pragmatism and frugality.
For brands playing in this space, perhaps the story search data is telling might nudge one to reimagine one’s brand narratives.
Presently, a semiotic analysis of vegan beauty brands reveal key themes of clean beauty, simple, uncluttered, good-for-you, and easy on the earth.
But now, we see the rising priority of functional benefit over symbolic. Consumers still want to do good, consume ethically and emulate this earth-consciousness. They just want it done all within tightened purse strings and budget-friendly boundaries.
More than this idea of uncomplicated goodness, brands would now need to convey products’ alignment with sensible, wallet-friendly decision making, perhaps steering ever so slightly away from vegan beauty’s perceived hipsterism and more towards mainstream drugstore grounded-ness?
Textually and visually, what are the various ways in which one can pivot messaging to highlight prudence and value-for-money?
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