How to Understand If Products Are Vegan-Friendly

Last Updated on April 2, 2021 by Kimberly Crawford

Being vegan is not just about eating vegetables. Living a vegan lifestyle doesn’t mean giving up all modern convenience; there are plenty of entirely vegan convenience products on the market.

The world is becoming more and more progressive as time goes on, with the vegan product market exploding. Many of the products you already purchase and use are vegan without you even knowing it. Here is a quick guide on how to tell if products are vegan-friendly. 

What makes an item Vegan?

Vegan is defined as free of any animal product such as eggs, meat, dairy, or any other derivative from an animal. There are plenty of additives and additional ingredients that confuse many new vegans or vegetarians at first. Rennet, gelatine, and E numbers that are derived from animal by-products are sometimes confusing and easy to miss at first. 

For a completely vegan product, it should not contain any animal by-products or be tested on animals. There is quite a big difference between plant-based and Vegan. Plant-based products are just products that are made from plants; there are no rules on animal testing.

Vegan products, however, cannot be tested on animals at all. The difference between the two is Plant-Based is a diet, Veganism is a moral lifestyle by which people live. Veganism will impact the beauty, household, and any other product you use. 

At a glance

Picking up vegan products at a glance is pretty straightforward. Pick up any product, find the label, and scan the ingredients list. Most Vegan-and-proud products will have a little sticker with the Vegan symbol – a small ‘V’ with a leaf coming out of it. If you cannot find the logo, that doesn’t mean the product is not Vegan. There are a few other places to look before you start deciphering the ingredients list. 

  • The beauty without cruelty logo: The leaping bunny logo is used on cosmetics and toiletries to certifying that the product has not been tested on animals. For a product to be certified with the leaping bunny logo, the ingredients also need to be cruelty-free and ethically sourced. The leaping bunny has a guide of products that they have certified to make life easier!
  • Certified Vegan – This slogan will mostly accompany the vegan society logo; this logo differs depending on which country you purchase your products in and where it was produced. 
  • ‘Contains’ and ‘May contain’ – many vegans use this section on a label to check whether at a glance the product contains any animal-derived ingredients. This section of the label is where manufacturers list possible allergens such as milk, eggs, fish, and other allergens that might impact other people. At a glance, this section can help you save time by listing the usual suspects. 
  • Allergens: This section is most helpful on a label; most products will list common allergens such as dairy or milk by-products. With the rise in dairy allergies, more and more people need to know whether the products they are purchasing are dairy-free. Brands will either list common allergens in bold text or a separate section listed ‘Allergens.’
  • ‘Made in a factory that uses milk or nuts’ – The addition of this is a legal pre-requisite for most brands, to state that they share premises with a company that uses dairy products in case of cross-contamination. If the ingredient list doesn’t have any animal ingredients, it is most likely safe to eat. 

Ingredients that vegans look for

vegan ingredients

With many products, not all vegan-friendly products have a bright green sticker stating vegan on them. For some, it takes a little digging to find out. Many local vegan groups will have people who share and investigate the companies and mainstream products available locally to check whether they have used all plant-based products. 

Some E-numbers are not vegan at all. While the label doesn’t list any animal products, they sometimes hide behind confusing numbers and letters. E-numbers are most often emulsifiers; some are vegan, others are made from animal-derived ingredients. These are the most common non-vegan E-numbers:

  • E120, also known as cochineal/ carmine/ natural red 4. This red food coloring is isolated from crushed beetles.
  • E542 is made from edible bone phosphate.
  • E631, also known as sodium 5′-inosinate is a flavor enhancer is made from meat, fish, and pork.
  • E901 is also known as beeswax.
  • E904, also known as shellac, is a natural polymer derived from lac beetles.
  • E913, also known as lanolin, is a wax excreted from sheepskin and extracted from a sheep’s wool.
  • E966, also known as lactitol, is sugar made from milk.
  • E1105, also known as lysozyme, is an enzyme made from commercial chicken eggs. 

Many other E-numbers are not vegan. When in doubt, pull up your internet search bar and look it up. Some e-numbers can have either animal-derived e-numbers or the vegan-friendly version. Most brands are willing to answer emails and calls regarding their ingredients’ vegan status, don’t be scared to reach out to your favorite brands and inquire. 

Tools of the trade

While it can be frustrating and challenging to go vegan and be confused about products, there are a few tools that every Vegan should have in their kitchen that can help alleviate some of the stress of going vegan. With a few tools, you can make vegan products that you love and enjoy but cannot find in a shop. 

  • Chocolate molds – While this is not a need, it is something you need around Easter, especially if you have kids! Making your chocolate eggs is fun all year round! 
  •  Tofu press – If you enjoy tofu, a tofu press can save you time and patience. Some presses have a drainage tray like this one to make pressing tofu less messy. 
  • Cheesecloth – From homemade plant milk to creamy sauces and nut flours, cheesecloth is life-changing in a vegan kitchen.
  • High-power blenders – The ultimate tool for any vegan kitchen, with a blender, you can make fantastic vegan ice creams, sauces, and meals. 

A changing world 

The world is changing at a rapid rate, and with it, brands are evolving. Many brands are on track with the times and offer vegan alternatives to their usual products. Whenever in doubt, reach out to brands and start the conversation. Many companies are testing or developing vegan/plant-based ranges. After all, Oreos are safe for vegans!