Encouraging Sustainable Food Consumption by Using More-Appetizing Language

Encouraging Sustainable Food Consumption by Using More-Appetizing Language. World Resources Institute. Daniel Vennard, Toby Park and Sophie Attwood. February 2019

Encouraging consumers to shift to primarily vegetarian diets is one way to lower the environmental impact of food. This two-phase online study explored the impact of the language used to describe vegetarian food on consumer choice. Phase one involved a consumer preference test to identify appealing alternative names for vegetarian dishes. In phase two, a randomized controlled trial determined the impact of these alternative names on dish choice in a mocked-up menu context.


Experiential and indulgent language to describe vegetarian dishes led to significant increases in the preference of plant-based items. Conversely, the term “meat-free” consistently discouraged consumers from choosing vegetarian dishes. These findings provide initial evidence that it is possible to shift non-vegetarians to eat more plant-based dishes by changing how these are described, with indulgent language out-performing other language categories. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 16 pages].

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