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.