Is plant-based the same as vegan?

Is plant-based the same as vegan?

Over a fifth of new food products launched in the UK are now branded as plant-based or vegan. But what is the difference between the two terms?


'Vegan' was first coined in 1944 when the world's first Vegan Society was set up in the UK with the belief that 'man should live without exploiting animals'. A person following a vegan lifestyle avoids consuming animal-based food (such as meat, poultry, dairy and honey) and also any animal-based products (such as leather, silk and wool).

There are a surprising amount of animal-based ingredients used in the manufacturing of products, such as gelatine to filter red and white wine, or silk powder used in shampoo to provide a glossy appearance to hair. Vegans are very strict about avoiding products such as these, as well as anything tested on animals.


The term 'plant-based' was introduced in the 1980s and originally referred to a diet made up of natural whole plant foods (such as vegetables, grains and nuts). The focus of a plant-based diet is on its health benefits and followers do not necessarily subscribe to the ethical and moral values of vegans.

There are no fixed rules to following a plant-based diet. Many people would consider themselves 'flexitarian' or 'vegan-ish' and follow the diet as much as they can, perhaps only eating certain animal-based products like honey or eggs, or simply including more plant-based meals in their week. A lot of people following a plant-based diet also continue to use animal-based products for haircare or homecare.

In summary

As vegan and plant-based diets have become more mainstream, both of these terms have been adopted by manufacturers to label their products. You can be certain that anything labelled vegan or plant-based will not contain any animal-based ingredients, but a vegan product may uphold a stricter standard of ethics in its production to avoid any harm to animals through other means.