Should Vegans Support Non-Vegan Companies?

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Should Vegans Support Non Vegan Companies

Many vegans have argued that it should be a vegan‘s responsibility to avoid any company with ties to animal exploitation. In this article, we will discuss the problems with boycotting non-vegan companies and why you should support them instead.

A lot of people think that they should avoid buying from companies that do not align with their values. A few years back people boycotted Chick-fil-A because they closed on Sundays for religious purposes.

This past year has been crazy with people boycotting businesses for either complying with or refusing to comply with, COVID restrictions.

So this idea is not unique to veganism. We speak with the money we spend, and people the world over, those who have the choice anyway, often choose to speak by not supporting businesses whose practices don’t align with their personal core values.

Not supporting businesses or companies that use exploit animals for profit is great in theory, but is it actually a sound practice? but can lead to many problems when put into practice.

We will go over three reasons as to why supporting these types of companies can actually help promote veganism more effectively than avoiding them completely:

It’s Easier to be Vegan Today

Veganism still isn’t huge from a numbers standpoint. But it continues to garner enough attention that companies are taking note.

There’s money to be made selling vegan products!

Companies are in the business of making money. By not making vegan products, companies are missing out on a huge opportunity to get in front of this growing market.

My wife is an ethical vegan and has been for almost 15 years. Do you know how hard it was to be vegan 15 years ago?!!

Some of you do. It sucked.

No one we knew was vegan. No one understood it. And the best vegan product on the market was Bocca Burgers. They’ve gotten better, but back then they tasted like cardboard.

My wife and I eat primarily whole foods. But man it’s nice to have a Beyond Burger or some Impossible food from time to time!

Now, my wife was fully committed to not supporting animal exploitation in any way, shape, or form. So she was willing to eat what was available.

But it’s so much easier now.

We have three grocery stores that we like, and we know which of our favorite vegan products we can get at each one.

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I know which store has the cheapest organic tofu, which carries vegan chorizo, where to buy Tofurky deli slices and vegan cheese, and so on.

Aisles have a ton of meat alternatives and non-dairy yogurts, milk, cheeses, sour creams, and cream cheeses. I can get them anywhere!

And non-dairy ice cream? Oh yeah! The hardest food for me to give up was Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food. It’s amazing. I would eat it every Friday night. Kind of my little treat.

I found other non-dairy ice creams that I liked, but I about jumped out of the store when I saw a non-dairy version of Phish Food! I was just hoping that it was even remotely good, to be honest.

I can’t tell the difference. I haven’t eaten the dairy version in over five years, so I could be mistaken, but I don’t think so.

It’s just so nice to know that I can shop vegan and not have an extremely difficult time.

You Can Actually Go Out to Eat

And what about eating out?!

For the most part, I think about whether or not to support companies that make food products that are sold in grocery stores.

But what about restaurants? There are 3 fully vegan restaurants in the city I live in. And I live in the second biggest city in Washington State!

There are a couple more vegetarian restaurants, but for the most part, restaurants in my area don’t cater exclusively to cruelty-free diners.

But pretty much all of them have vegan options.

If you’re going out to eat with a non-vegan, it’s not hard to find something that both of you can enjoy.

Most restaurants these days have vegan options

We should be grateful for the strides that have been made and continue to support these companies. We should work to make sure that they know that there is a market for each vegan product on their menus.

If we don’t support non-vegan restaurants, why would they carry vegan options? No point buying the supplies and offering meals on their menus if no one is going to buy them.

Plus, how much easier is it to go out to eat with your friends when you know you can go pretty much anywhere and enjoy a meal with them.

And It’s Not Only Vegans That Buy Vegan Products

Not many of us were born vegan, and many of us adopted the lifestyle slowly. I’m focused on food here, but think about clothes, gym gear, handbags, car upholstery…not every vegan is perfect.

It can take some time to find the products you like. It took a few shopping trips to find a vegan yogurt I like. But the same can be said for dairy yogurt as well.

Most people are creatures of habit, and people have their favorites.

Remember Miracle Whip? Is that still a thing? When I was growing up parents either used Mayonaise or Miracle Whip. And if you went to a friend’s house and their mom made you a sandwich with the other…GROSS!

People that are just started going vegan, or those simply trying to eat less meat, dairy, and eggs, may find it easier to buy a vegan option from a brand they already know.

The more convenient it is for people to try a vegan alternative, the more likely they will be to give it a shot.

There are a lot of people these days that identify as “flexible vegetarians” or “meat reducers.” Call it whatever you want, I’m just glad you’re trying!

A lot of people are interested in reducing their meat consumption, but might not be ready to fully adopt the vegan lifestyle. By having a variety of products available – including vegan versions of popular items – people can easily transition to buying more vegan food.

And personally, I don’t care what you eat, just don’t eat the fucking animals.

The More Products That Are Made, The Better They Get

Competition breeds improvement.

I’m sure you have your favorite vegan brand, vegan food, or vegan restaurant.

Personally, I love Beyond Burgers. I don’t eat them often because I don’t see them as an overly healthy item to eat regularly but they are good!

Beyond Meat Cookout Classic Burger

Ten years ago I don’t think many people would have believed we’d actually hit a point where a vegan burger would be made that would not only taste like an animal product but better.

Remember when I mention Bocca. Even they’ve gotten better. More vegan products coming out, more competition, get better or you’re done.

Most vegan companies start because they have a vision of helping reduce animal exploitation.

That’s why I have this website. That’s why I write these articles.

But it’s not enough to have a company that can’t make a good vegan product anymore. And everyone seems to be rising to the challenge. New companies are coming out with amazing products, and old companies are improving and keeping pace.

Companies Are Starting to Change

I wasn’t born vegan. I would guess you weren’t either. It was a choice we made at some point in our lives.

Companies are no different. If they know they can be profitable and continue to make in-demand products without animal exploitation, they may come around.

The more people that buy vegan products, the more likely it is that companies will start to invest in veganism. And this isn’t just a hypothetical idea – it’s already happening!

Flora, a dairy company that made butter and margarine, announced last year that it will exclusively sell plant based food. This shift was huge! A dairy company moving from milk to plant-based!

Many companies are starting to invest in plant-based meat alternatives, dairy substitutes, and other vegan options. This is because they see the potential for profit in these products.

And it’s not just food producers that are making changes.

Last year Reebok came out with a vegan version of the Nano XI. They used sustainably sourced materials for parts like insoles and outer weaving.

Reebok Nano X1 Vegan

And the shoes were a hit! Some of my favorite athletes took to social media to showcase their new vegan kicks, and most of them aren’t vegan themselves.

Even though they don’t subscribe to the vegan lifestyle, they understand the importance of protecting the environment and were willing to spend their money on a product that was moving in a sustainable direction.

I bought a pair. I could have skipped them because Reebok uses leather in some of their fitness products. But what kind of message am I sending if I don’t show them that I care about them possibly moving in a new direction?

Everyone needs to make a livelihood, but I truly believe that more companies will follow suit if they know they can.

But Why Does it Always Fall On the Vegans?

Here’s the only part that bothers me about non-vegan companies making vegan products…

Why does it always feel that it becomes the responsibility of vegans to purchase vegan products made by non-vegan companies?

Maybe I’m the only one that feels this way.

But every time a company comes out with a new vegan product my friends and family ask if I’m going to buy it.

It should fall on the shoulders of non-vegans. I made my choice. Even when it isn’t easy, I’ve made my choice.

But now you have a choice. A company you usually buy non-vegan products from has a vegan alternative. And it is equally as good. So why are you continuing to purchase the product that is a result of animal cruelty?

I hope that is where the conversation continues.

Vegan Certification

Even the Vegan Society only trademarks items.

I love the Vegan Symbol! Yes, most of what I choose are fruits, veggies, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes. But I love some good ol’ packaged food, too.

I have the items I frequently purchase, but sometimes I have to choose a brand I don’t know or an item that I don’t usually purchase.

Often these are things like brownie mix or cookies.

The Vegan Trademark makes it super easy. I know that the item I’m buying doesn’t have any animal products and is cruelty free.

Items take a considerable amount of time for the Vegan Society to look into and verify. They simply can’t do the same for entire companies.

They can’t “audit handwash in their bathrooms or check if Karen from HR’s birthday cake contains eggs. We feel that stating an entire company is vegan against our standards is misleading. What we’re interested in is looking at a company’s products, which are the items we eat, use and enjoy.” (1)

What About the Ethical Practices of Parent Companies?

First and foremost, companies operate to make a profit. Whatever their mission may be, they have to turn a profit in order to stay in business.

Non-vegan companies won’t just abandon the products they’ve always made. They won’t alienate the vast majority of their customer base. They’d disappear.

If vegans support the products they make that are vegan, especially those that have been vetted and carry the Vegan trademark, they will see that they can continue to make a profit with vegan products.

Any animal-free product they create is a positive step forward. It’s a step forward against animal exploitation and supporting countries that require animal testing on their products.

And did you know that companies have to pay to use the Vegan Trademark? I didn’t. And all of that money goes directly to promoting veganism!

So any company that has the Vegan Trademark is paying to use it. Even if the company isn’t vegan, they are, in a roundabout way, paying to support the advancement of the vegan idea. No animal ingredients, no animal testing, and diligent and robust methods to avoid cross-contamination.

And a lot of vegan companies are owned by non-vegan parent companies.

Daiya is owned by Otsuka, Aveda is owned by Estee Lauder, Oatley took a $200 million investment from Blackstone, and Mrs. Meyer’s is owned by SC Johnson.

It is really hard for small companies to make it these days. They just don’t have the capital to grow and keep up with demand. Or to compete against massive, established companies that have the majority of consumers as their customer base. Vegans only make up about 3 percent of the population.

Large companies have a lot of money, and they are willing to invest in companies that can help make them money. Why compete when you can just buy.

And most small, vegan companies, even after being bought out, continue with their vegan roots. No animal-derived ingredients, no animal exploitation, no animal testing.

Take Leaping Bunny and Drunk Elephant. Both came out publicly and stated that they never would have signed on with a non-vegan certified parent company if they were not going to be able to keep their cruelty-free practices.

Most companies are not in the animal-cruelty business, they are in the making money business.

And I believe we need to show them that these products are profitable.

Raising Awareness

Large companies have a lot of customers. And getting the word out is the cornerstone of any movement.

The more non-vegan companies that promote plant-based products, the more eyes and ears those products reach. Not just through in-store or online purchases, but through advertising.

TV commercials, radio, and social media are major avenues with hundreds of millions of consumers. Any positive messaging around veganism is huge and ultimately leads to more people buying vegan products.

The  more companies that advertise vegan products the more awareness spreads

And as people realize that vegan options are every bit as good as the foods they are used to, it pulls ever more on the ethical issue of veganism…

If we don’t have to kill animals to survive, then they are only being killed for how they taste (at least on the food side of the argument).

And if vegan products taste just as good, or better, people may start to lean toward the ethical side of the argument

But Your Money is Supporting Animal-Cruelty

Your Money Tells Companies What is Profitable

I can’t argue with this. If you buy any product from a company that uses animal-derived ingredients or ingredients that were tested on animals, you are in some small way supporting animal cruelty.

Rather than trying to “veganize” everyone, why not support smaller vegan companies?

I agree. And I do. Most of the time. I have my favorite vegan brands; companies with mission statements that I love, and I buy from them regularly. Especially when it comes to supplements!

But not everyone is fully committed to veganism. Some are just trying to do their best.

The more difficult it is for them, the less likely they are to make any kind of change.

I’d rather 100 people are trying their best to reduce their animal usage than 1 person is the perfect vegan.

And let’s be honest, most of us are not perfect vegans. We can all be better. I appreciate those that are trying.

Should Vegans Support Non-Vegan Companies Conclusion

We should promote veganism in every avenue possible, even those that don’t align with our core values. By doing this, we can help promote veganism more effectively than boycotting non-vegan companies ever could!

In the end, it’s completely your call where you put your money. I don’t judge either way you lean here. I completely get the argument for avoiding companies that exploit animals, or the environment for that matter. And I definitely have brands, restaurants, and stores that I will not support because of their practices.

But I am hopeful for change.

How about you? Are you willing to support non-vegan companies?

*Author's Note: The content on this website is meant to be informative in nature, but it should not be taken as medical advice. The content of our articles is not intended for use as diagnosis, prevention, and/or treatment of health problems. It's always best to speak with your doctor or a certified medical professional before making any changes to your lifestyle, diet, or exercise routine, or trying a new supplement.

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Matt Walter, CHN, M.A.T
I studied Food Science and Human Nutrition at Washington State University and interned as a Strength and Conditioning Coach for the WSU football team. I am a Certified Holistic Nutritionist and former personal trainer and competitive CrossFit athlete. My mission is to make embracing and adopting a healthy vegan lifestyle simple and fun!