January has now become synonymous with ‘Veganuary’; a month in which non-vegans are challenged to go plant-based. It is no secret that veganism is a fast-growing concept – an article from September 2020 suggests that there are now 78 million vegans in the world. The research also stated that the number of vegans in the UK alone has quadrupled over the last five years. As cultural influences become part of our everyday lives, language needs to adapt to reflect this. So, how is veganism changing food language?

Changing consumer habits

The Covid-19 pandemic has made a huge impact on our everyday lives. Some changes, such as mask wearing and social distancing are obvious, but others perhaps are more subtle. The meat substitute market is growing at an impressive rate off the back of people reassessing their habits during the pandemic. The demand for healthier foods is sweeping the globe and language needs to adapt to reflect this.

To capitalise on the swift growth in the sector, vegan brands and organisations need to work cohesively across the globe. This requires a co-ordinated strategy for talking about food with consistent messaging about the benefits of veganism and the alternatives available to adopt the lifestyle. Of course, a vegan lifestyle is all encompassing and extends to fashion, beauty, and lifestyle choices. This adds a further challenge for those translating in this field.

The language of food: Translating about meat substitutes

The meat substitute sector has seen vast growth in recent years, with products such as ‘Facon’ and ‘Tofurkey’ hitting the market. The instantly recognisable puns on some of meat lovers’ favourite products have built a whole new language around meat substitutes. While terms like these are commonplace in the UK, some countries have banned the use of meat-related words to describe their vegan counterparts. France, for example, has banned the use of ‘meat names’ for veggie alternatives. The decision was intended to ensure consumers do not become confused or misled by the names, believing them to contain meat. This raises the complex issue of food labelling, the requirements of which vary from country to country. At Albion Languages, we are able to provide consultative support for brands and help advise at which stage of the product development process you should consider looking into labelling requirements and translations.

Changing food habits and the challenge for translators

The language used to talk about food can be highly complex and it has been much studied over the years. Ingredients can vary depending on availability, tastes, budgets and religious beliefs around the world. Interesting research has revealed patterns in how the star rating of a food online or the cost of an item in a restaurant all affect the types of language used to describe it. More creative language that gives food more sensual qualities is often used to describe higher end meals and ingredients. Add to this the fact that different cultures have different incomes and local tastes, and the challenge in selecting the right words in translation becomes increasingly important.

The global vegan industry: how will languages help the sector to prosper?

Translating about food and ‘food linguistics’ can involve several skills. Translators may well need to use creative translation (transcreation) to ensure that food branding and marketing sounds exciting and appropriate for a range of cultures. Culinary tastes vary, as do dining habits, so, in order to grow market share in a specific location, it is important this is done correctly.

There can even be negative perceptions of veganism thanks to some of the more determined tactics staunch vegans may use to promote their beliefs. A cohesive global communication strategy involving trusted healthcare bodies and outlets can help to responsibly promote the benefits of reducing meat consumption. Naturally, this approach will also need to bring together other elements such as the environment and sustainability. It’s crucial that this sector looks to demystify jargon and, for words related to new developments, to gain trust and credibility with consumers. The translation of food linguistics demands a multitude of skills from the translator to ensure that consumers can make informed choices while also being inspired to try something new.

Do you want to find out more about food linguistics and translations for the food industry? Contact our experts to find out more.