As a life-long fan of faux meat, the proliferation of options (and improvements) in recent years has been awesome to see. Strolls through the frozen section of the grocery have gotten more interesting with some of the newer players in the space, so I wanted to take a look at exactly what’s going on with naming in plant-based meat products.

First, let’s get the classics out of the way. Morningstar (my personal favorite since the 80s!), Boca, Gardein, Quorn, and Tofurky have all been around for decades. None of them are particularly radical, though Tofurky stands out in its ridiculous perfection. (Side note: Tofurky’s brand is actually amazing right now — take a look for yourself and enjoy their visual branding as well as their fun brand voice. I absolutely love that they are sticking with a name that started with their turkey-shaped-tofu-loaf.) Quorn also deserves mention for seeming to suggest a connection to corn, but in fact getting its name from a village in England.

Names of newcomers are where most of the cool names are found in meatless meat. And most of them do one of two things: convey something about the emotion or experience, or say what it isn’t.

The Experience

A couple of brands boldly share their excitement about their stunning feats of meat replication: Impossible, Daring. Others get to the experience in a slightly softer yet still striking way: Feed Your Head, Better Chew.

What It Isn’t

We don’t usually recommend naming products in terms of what they’re not, but in a category entirely built on being not-meat, they get a pass. Some say it directly, while others aim for more creativity. NotCo offers NotChicken, NotBurger and NotMilk. Simulate has Simulate Chicken, Simulate Tenders and Simulate Nuggs. Beyond Meat extends from Beyond Burger to Beyond Steak, Beyond Meatballs, and, well… beyond. Barvecue takes a different approach, cueing vegetarianism/veganism with a light coining of the “barbecue” it emulates. There’s also a company called Before the Butcher that has a line of plant-based meat alternatives under the name Uncut — both names suggesting that they are decidedly not meat.

What It Is?!

Does anyone talk about what it is rather than what it isn’t? I’m so glad you asked. Tofurky gets major points here for originally being turkey-shaped tofu — making their name a perfectly descriptive portmanteau — and tofu is still a main ingredient in their products, so we’ll still count it. Jack & Annie’s is the only newer unmeat brand we uncovered that says what it actually is in the name, though it requires a bit of background to get it. Jack refers to ‘jackfruit’ — the plant that founder *Annie* uses in these plant-based meat substitutes. 

Another thing to note in this category is the tone we’re seeing in names. Older meat substitute brand names are somewhat softer (Morningstar, Gardein, Boca), while some of the newer ones feel bold and intense (Impossible, NotCo, Daring, Beyond). This reflects societal shifts in how vegetarian and vegan foods are perceived, as well as shifts in naming trends over the decades. As our society continues to shift and likely embrace more protein alternatives, I’m excited to see how naming trends will shift alongside them. Will there be more and more brands expressing what they’re not? Or will there be more clarity about what the new protein sources actually are? Or maybe new categories will be created to eliminate the connection to meat? Let’s see.

Need to name a plant-based meat? Or create a whole new plant-based category?? Get in touch.

Jill Stanewick is a director of naming & strategy at Tanj.