Vegetarian and vegan product reviews - is it time the truth was told?
Bee in your Bonnet by Vegetarian Society member, Sally
Vegetarian and vegan product reviews – is it time the truth was told?
Everyone has something that gets a bee in their bonnet and veggies and vegans are no different. What do you think? Share your comments on our Facebook and Twitter using #VeggieRant or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Last Christmas I was flipping through one of the many vegetarian/vegan food and lifestyle magazines which now abound. In it several vegetarian meat substitute roasts were reviewed. The reviewing actually involved lavishing praise on them all and singling out a couple for extra gush.
(The author bought them)
They all tasted terrible, anaemic and with a hint of old rubber. The most praised turned out to be a beige lump which tasted of salt with an after taste of petrol. Nobody in my family would eat any of them. I couldn’t. But I had bought them, because I trusted the article.
This got me thinking. I have been a vegetarian for 30 years and want to give a yell of protest about the terrible goods sold under the banner of vegetarian or vegan, usually with the words ‘raw ‘or ‘natural’ sloshed around and praised uncritically in vegetarian magazines. The false claims of the people plugging them are repeated without question. Mainstream newspapers and magazines will often describe goods as awful when they are awful. Vegetarian magazines are left insisting that goods are terrific no matter what. It makes us look silly and weakens our case.
All magazines contain a certain amount of plugging. An interview is offered by a person or company with a product to sell. The deal being a softball interview and plug for whatever it is. It happens often. And would make up a large part of most food, fashion or lifestyle magazines we read. The magazine gets a piece, the seller gets a plug.
After all this time I can write the interviews myself. There will be a beautifully photographed person in just so wellies and linens clutching a trug or cuddling a chicken. He or she used to have a bad lifestyle (vaguely described) but saw the light, moved to a lovely location and used his or her experiences to launch a range of…..
Sometimes it’s a family. “Simon and Sarah both worked in advertising but they re-evaluated their lifestyle and moved to Violet Cottage where they market their own range of all natural something or other, assisted by their lovely twins Flora and Fauna and goat Freddie.
Nobody reviewing or interviewing in the vegetarian magazine ever asks: How does this taste? How does it wash? How does it wear? What is the price? What research (from where) are you using to back up your claims? How do you propose somebody on an average wage can buy your goods? And why should they (especially given your claims are nonsense)? Are you not actually selling your lifestyle? Still less does anybody actually rate the product and compare it to others. We press on being incredibly nice.
We don’t need to do this anymore. The vegetarian and vegan product industry is big business worth millions; we are no longer all sheltering from the storm and needing to pull together. If a vegetarian product is no damn good, overpriced or absurd we need to evaluate and say so and our magazines need to do this too.
Most magazines will rate products. Vegetarian and vegan magazines seem to only praise, never criticise. I don’t know if there is a special dependence on using plugging interviews to fill space and therefore criticism can’t be employed, but I have had it with being told something is marvellous when it is clearly terrible.
I am all for supporting small local businesses but not for being rooked by a plug thinly disguised as an interview or evaluation.
In the last 30 years I have been sucked in. I would dash down my copy of “The Vegetarian Bugle” or such like and rush out to buy, buy, buy!
I have worn awful vegan shoes which fell apart in weeks, hurt like hell and looked geeky.
I have worn clothes “so natural, we only use berries to dye our products!” which dyed my skin and everything round them and also fell apart in the first wash.
I have choked down carob bars which had as much sugar and fat as chocolate bars and got fat on other food meant to be somehow healthier than standard confectionary but with all the calories.
I have even used skin and hair products which on examination are mostly cheap moisturisers as found at your discount chemist but in a dear little jar and with some herbs or other ingredients of no proven benefit to anybody.
I have spent hours slogging through expensive fiddly recipes which a vegetarian magazine has assured me will take no time at all.
I have forced down meat substitutes which tasted awful beyond belief.
Most of all I have felt embarrassed when yet again I have spent money on something which is no damn good and which I really, really want to be as good as the glowing review.
So let’s have less simpering puff pieces and more honesty. If one sauce tastes much better than the other, if a veggie loaf tastes like an old tyre, if the organic t-shirt is woefully cut and has zero washability, let’s say so! If we rank and rate products, let’s name and shame the ones which take our vegetarian pounds but rook us in value and quality. Let’s call out the products which make us vulnerable to all the accusations (thrown by carnivores) of lousy food, poor value for money, rip offs and hippie tat.
Above all let’s cut down on the fawning, uncritical product plugging in our magazines – even if it breaks Freddie the goat’s heart.”
Everyone has something that gets a bee in their bonnet and veggies and vegans are no different. What do you think? Share your comments on our Facebook and Twitter using #VeggieRant or email email@example.com
Sign up for our newsletter