What's in a Trademark?

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As more companies start to become more aware of the ingredients in their products, how they label them, seems to be changing. There has been an increase in the use of “plant-based” and “more plant-based” on various product labels. What is wrong with that? Most people would think that the use of such wording would indicate that a particular product was vegan, or 100% plant-based. However, many foods are using such labels and the product contains animal products.

For those consumers who need to know that a product is 100% plant-based or is vegan, it is helpful to have a vegan trademark attached to the product. In Aotearoa, the Food Standards Authority are not interested in keeping labels clear and consumers informed. Companies can use whatever wording they like to describe their products. There is no law saying that products labelled halal, vegan, plant-based, more environmentally friendly etc have to be halal, vegan, 100% plant-based or indeed, environmentally friendly! The Ministry for Primary Industries and the Commerce Commission also believe there is no issue with this style of misleading labelling.

“It is concerning that so many companies are now using the words “plant-based” when the product is not actually 100% plant-based. It makes things confusing for the consumer and those with allergies must be very wary. Until the Foods Standards Authority, the MPI and the Commerce Commission believe there is a problem, we suggest that people keep an eye out for the vegan trademark and use that as their guide” said the media spokesperson for the Vegan Society Aotearoa, Claire Insley.

There are two official vegan trademarks in use in Aotearoa, one that is run by the New Zealand Vegetarian Society and the other is the oldest vegan trademark, created by the UK Vegan Society and recently brought over here to be run in Aotearoa by the Christchurch Vegan Society. Both trademarks are proof of a certified vegan product, one that really is 100% plant-based, with no hidden animal products used during filtration processes, or as a by-product somewhere in the process etc.

Whilst governmental bodies refuse to protect consumers, the best thing the consumer can do is to become informed, read every scrap of ingredient labels or search for official trademarks. Trademarks are an easy way for the consumer to know exactly what they are getting. Companies who are concerned with reaching their target audience should consider carefully if a vegan trademark would help their products.

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