What Does 'Plant-Based' Mean on CPG Packaging?

We’re calling it, plant-based foods have become mainstream. Whether it’s startups or established consumer packaged goods (CPG) giants, everyone wants a piece of the plant-based pie. 

Don’t get confused with the term vegan. While they’re similar in meaning, they have important differences. For instance, your plant-based pie may be vegan, but your vegan pie might not be plant-based. 

In order to constitute a plant-based pie, it would need to contain a meat, egg or dairy alternative. 

If you’re unsure on the difference between plant-based and vegan products or diets, everything you need to know can be found in this explanatory article

It’s a hot market, especially now that 60% of the largest meat manufacturers in the US have plant-based CPGs.

what is plant-based on packaging for CPGs

If you can’t beat them, join them!

With its growing popularity, many people will be looking to sample the latest in plant-based goodies. To be a contender in such a competitive market, you’ll want to make sure that your plant-based food or beverage product stands out on supermarket shelves. 

So what should you include on the product’s packaging, how should it look and how can you do it well? All will be revealed.

Get your plant-based CPG packaging right 

There are certain features that consumers look out for when they’re shopping plant-based. The colors, fonts, materials and labeling all matter when it comes to representing your brand and product. 

You could have the market’s superior meat, dairy or egg alternative product, but if you don’t package it accordingly, you’ll be missing out on vital sales. 


If your product meets the requirements, you should get it plant-based certified.

As mentioned above, your product will have to be or contain a meat, dairy or egg alternative. It will also have to have a maximum of 5% non-plant-based additives.

You can become a member of the Plant-Based Foods Association, who launched the first plant-based food certification with NSF International in 2018. 

If eligible, you’ll be able to display the Certified Plant-Based label on your packaging, giving your product the official seal of approval.

Those who seek plant-based foods and beverages will seek out this stamp, often noticing it before any other parts of the packaging. 


If your product has not yet been certified as plant-based, you could still include an icon that communicates its plant-based nature. A green leaf is usually a widely understood way to indicate this. 

Beyond the plant-based certification symbol, there are other icons that you could include on your packaging to communicate your brand values. 

For instance, if you’re manufacturing a plant-based product, it’s pretty likely that your brand values the environment. Your packaging may therefore be environmentally friendly too, so whether it’s recyclable, recycled, biodegradable, compostable, FSC certified, part of the Rainforest Alliance or more, be sure to include the symbol!


Plants have many nutritional benefits. Many plant-based eaters will have adopted the diet with the intention of eating ‘clean’ and improving their physical well-being. 

Don’t be afraid to gloat about which benefits your customers will receive from sinking their teeth into your plant-based product. Whether it’s more protein-per-calorie than animal products, less fat, or more vitamins - let them know!


Color is a great way to communicate that a product is plant-based without having to say it. 

Earthy colors such as green, brown or even orange are commonly used to suggest the use of natural ingredients in food or beverage products.

Use these colors wisely. Though you’ll want to be recognized as plant-based, you’ll also want to stand out from the crowd. Consider how you could use these colors as part of a wider palette. 


You may think that just mentioning the term ‘plant-based’ once somewhere on the front of the packaging will be enough to let a consumer know. But consider this. If your product is slightly rotated on the shelf, they may not even get to see the front.

It’s worth repeating the messaging in various places on your packaging to hammer the message home. Of course you’ll have to adhere to labeling regulations, so don’t forget to check what’s required. 

Packaging on CPGs


The name of a plant-based food or beverage product can be tricky to get right. You’ll want to communicate what exactly it is that you’re offering an alternative for, but some dairy and meat brands can get pretty territorial.

There have been some cases of legal battles when it comes to plant-based product marketing. Take for instance the Oatly petition against amendment 171 in the European parliament. Had it passed, it would’ve meant that dairy alternative brands couldn’t describe products as ‘alternative to’ or even state that they didn’t contain milk!


You may or may not have noticed, but plant-based CPGs tend to favor using beautiful photography of meat alternative foods - such as a ‘burger’ in a bun. Animal meat products tend to display the ‘meat’ through a clear window.

You may not want to stray from the plant-based CPG standard here. You wouldn’t want your customers to overlook your product, mistaking it for animal meat. 

plant based CPG packaging


With all of the above, you should consider the specific audience that you’re targeting. There are many sub-groups who will want to try your plant-based CPG: vegans, vegetarians, pescatarians, flexitarians and even just those who are looking to reduce their meat intake for whatever reason. 

If you were to target vegans specifically, you may end up deterring those who enjoy eating meat but are choosing to eat less for health or environmental reasons. On the other hand, if you were to target meat eaters, you may not attract vegans who aren’t too concerned with finding a meat alternative. 

Ready to get your CPG product onto shelves?

That’s great, because that’s what we do. Buffalo Market also happens to specialize in CPG products that are good for the planet and good for people, so if you’ve got a plant-based product, we’d love to distribute it. 

Get in touch with the leading distributor of purpose-driven CPG brands today.


Buffalo Market celebrates Meatless Monday!

Check out our other blogs on plant-based news and information.

Meatless Monday: A History

Promos for Savy Plant-Based CPGs

Plant-Based Protein and Climate Investment

The Rise of Meatless Meat

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