Vegan Society’s first ever US market report reveals nearly 90% of shoppers feel vegan-verified cosmetics are important
Over half of US consumers want to see more verified vegan labels across beauty products, The Vegan Society’s first ever US market insights report has found.
As The Vegan Society continues to expand its global reach, it is keen to understand perceptions of veganism and vegan products around the world. As such, a report entitled The Vegan Beauty Takeover: US Edition, has been created in collaboration with the American Vegan Society. The results of a survey, conducted as part of the report, echo previous findings from a UK survey exploring consumer demand for vegan cosmetics and whether shoppers understand the differences between vegan and cruelty-free labelling.
In the beauty industry, the term “cruelty-free” either refers to products which have not been tested on animals or those that are not sold in territories where post-market animal testing is required by law. Cruelty-free does not, however, specify whether the ingredients in a product are derived from animals. At The Vegan Society, a “vegan” label means the product has not been tested on animals, and the product contains no animal ingredients. There are often misconceptions around what “cruelty-free” and “vegan” mean among manufacturers, brands and shoppers alike.
This understanding was reflected in the results of an online survey carried out among a panel of US cosmetic and toiletry shoppers. Panellists were asked their perceptions of different labelling found on cosmetics and toiletries, including “vegan”, “cruelty-free” and “vegan and cruelty-free”.
The results found:
- 19% of panellists incorrectly thought “cruelty-free” meant the product did not contain animal ingredients
- Just 18.5% of the panel correctly selected that “vegan” means the product contains no animal ingredients and is not tested on animals
- 58% of panellists correctly selected that the “vegan and cruelty-free” label meant the product contains no animal ingredients and is not tested on animals
While the latter is correct, there should be no need to make both claims. However, there is no legal definition for the term “vegan”, meaning the existence of external schemes such as The Vegan Trademark, to verify such claims, is of paramount importance.
Following the above perception exercise, panellists were asked how important it is for them that brands selling vegan cosmetics and toiletries have the items certified by a third-party organisation, so the consumer is not relying solely on the word of the manufacturer. Almost 90% of participants said it was important. Of those, nearly 70% selected either “very” or “quite” important while a further 20% selected “a little important”.
They were asked in which product categories they would like to see more vegan-verified options. The most popular answer was “all toiletries and cosmetic products” which received a response from 56% of panellists. This was followed by skincare (49%), haircare (49%) and deodorant (48%).
The participants were also asked about their knowledge of animal ingredients in cosmetic and toiletry products.
Despite nearly half (49%) claiming they felt either “very” or “somewhat” confident identifying animal derived ingredients in toiletries and cosmetics, results for panellists selecting correctly were very low.
They were asked to select from a list of 10 ingredients which of them could be derived from animals. Examples include tallow – created from the fat of farmed animals – used in soap and make-up – and oestrogen from pregnant horses sometimes used in anti-ageing creams.
Almost half of the panel (48%) correctly selected that collagen could come from animals, although just 23% correctly selected cochineal dye – a red dye created by crushing insects. In fact, all 10 ingredients could be animal-derived, and just under three percent of panellists correctly selected this answer. This demonstrates the ambiguity around cosmetic ingredients which can go under a variety of names.
The original UK-based Vegan Society works with its American counterpart to raise awareness among consumer-based industries of the need for transparency for vegan customers as well as the exploitation and harm behind the use of animals in everyday products. Before products are certified with the Vegan Trademark, a rigorous checking process ensures animals are not used in any way at any stage of the product’s creation.
Katharina Eist, International Business Development Manager at The Vegan Society, said: “We love working with likeminded people all around the world to promote how ethics and shopping habits go hand in hand.
“This is our first publication in collaboration with the American Vegan Society and we are delighted to have them on board as our US Vegan Trademark representatives to help educate and raise awareness of what “vegan” means, and the need for clear labelling across consumer industries.
“Interest in vegan cosmetics is higher than ever – there is no excuse for animals to suffer for our purchases – it’s time for the industry to make veganism the norm!”
 *Research was based on an online survey titled, “Your view”, conducted anonymously via the Attest platform in May 2022. Audience was 1000 people in the US who purchase cosmetics and toiletries. Panel was working age nationally representative for age, gender and state.