What does vegan certification mean and is it necessary?

Three common questions that vegan businesses face right from the get-go are whether to seek vegan certification, which certification to choose and whether vegan certification is actually necessary.

It can be a surprisingly confusing issue and one you may be thinking about right now.

As you may already know, the logos and symbols we see on products don’t all represent the same standards. Currently, in the UK and EU, for example, there are no legal requirements for items to be labelled vegan or vegetarian and businesses that choose to make these claims are free to design their own symbols denoting the ethical credentials of the organisation, products or services.

Then, of course, there’s the fact that, although there are some internationally-recognised vegan certified symbols, each country also has its own accreditations and best practice.

Once you do decide which certification or accreditation is right for your business (and you can choose more than one), you will need to go through a sometimes-stringent application process and pay an annual, banded licensing fee, which is usually set according to your organisation’s annual turnover.

The pros and cons of seeking vegan certification

On the plus side

When people first decide to adopt a vegan lifestyle, it can feel like an endless process of checking labels and ingredients and researching manufacturers and supply chains for their vegan credentials too.

The lack of clarity around labelling in the UK and EU means that vegan products can be made on the same production lines as non-vegan products, carrying a risk of cross-contamination.

Also, products may be listed as cruelty-free but not be vegan, which can make it difficult for consumers to buy with confidence.

Securing a high-quality, widely-known vegan certification gives busy ethical consumers a shorthand for finding vegan products or services that align with their values. They can literally pick a product off the shelf and know that the vegan credentials have been checked and double-checked for them.

If your business is able to offer this reassurance, customers will appreciate it.

Another benefit of seeking vegan accreditation is that many schemes include a members’ database, discounts, access to business advice, opportunities to be present at vegan fairs and more. It’s always a good idea to check what each scheme entails.

Downsides to consider

For smaller vegan businesses, solopreneurs and start-ups, the costs of vegan certification can be prohibitive. Most schemes do band their fees based on annual turnover but we recognise that every penny counts.

Even if you decide to seek vegan accreditation, will your customers recognise the credentials of whichever mark you choose? With so many vegan and/or cruelty-free claims out there, it can be hard to make sure your certification stands out.

Of course, one of the benefits of choosing an established scheme is that your customers should already have a degree of familiarity with what that looks like.

What would be the right fit for your business?

Ultimately, you will need to decide what feels like the right fit for your business. You might want to consider these questions:

  • Where are your customers based?
  • What vegan certification will they be familiar with and/or look for or expect to see?
  • How much do you know about your manufacturers and supply chain?
  • How central are veganism and transparency about your processes to your business goals?
  • What is your budget for certification?
  • Do you want to choose a scheme that gives you extra support to grow your organisation?
  • What sector do you work in? Which are the most recognised schemes within that sector?

What are the main vegan certification marks and what do they look like?

Below, we’ve included some information about some of the most frequently used vegan certification marks:

Certified Vegan

The Certified Vegan logo is a globally-recognised registered trademark, although it is most popular in the US. It indicates products that do not contain animal products or by-products and have not been tested on non-human animals. It also looks at all the steps in the manufacturing and supply chain to ensure that vegan standards are maintained throughout.

Currently, there are thousands of products from over a thousand different companies that are Certified Vegan. It is one of the vegan certifications that consumers know to look for.

Cost: At the time of writing (March 2022), there is a one-off, non-refundable $100 fee to apply for certification. You will then be asked to pay an annual licensing fee for your company (not per product) based on your annual revenue. This could be anywhere between $150/year (for revenue up to $15,000) to $3,000 (for revenue of up to $10 million). The fees are split across seven bands.


  • Give your customers a quick and easy way to see that your products are vegan without having to constantly consult ingredients lists.
  • Give your products a presence in the vegan marketplace and help to make veganism mainstream.
  • Appear in the worldwide Certified Vegan database.

Visit the Vegan.org website for more information

The Vegan Trademark

Many see The Vegan Society’s Vegan Trademark as the international standard for vegan products and there is no doubt that it is globally recognised. Currently, more than 60,000 products worldwide carry this mark, which confirms that products are free from animal products, and by-products and have not been tested on non-human animals.

Cost: You need to register and go through a four-step process to use the Vegan Trademark. Licenses are usually offered on a 12- or 24-month basis. The price of registration and licensing is only available from The Vegan Society on request.


  • Show customers that your products are vegan with the instantly recognised and trusted Vegan Trademark.
  • Give people peace of mind that your ingredients, processes and supply chain have all been rigorously checked to ensure they’re truly plant-based and cruelty free.
  • Get support with the application and registration process from The Vegan Society.
  • Create credible brand awareness for your business.
  • Access market insights and other members of the vegan business community.
  • Explore discounted advertising opportunities, social media promotion, competitions and product exposure at events.

Visit The Vegan Society website to find out more

Vegetarian Society Approved

The Vegetarian Society in the United Kingdom was established in 1847 and is known across the world. Many people are familiar with the Vegetarian Society Approved trademark that has appeared on a variety of products since 1986. However, in 2017, the Vegetarian Society also launched a vegan trademark to add its support to products in the vegan market.

Any product bearing the Vegetarian Society Approved Vegan trademark must contain no animal-derived ingredients, have measures in place to avoid cross-contamination during production, be GMO-free, and ensure that no animal testing is carried out or commissioned.

Cost: Currently, pricing information is not available. You need to fill in an online registration form and someone from The Vegetarian Society follows up with a quote.


  • Customers are already familiar with The Vegetarian Society and the age and reputation of the organisation helps to create a sense of trust around products or services bearing the vegan trademark.
  • Products are independently checked and verified.

You can find more about The Vegetarian Society Vegan Approved trademark here


The V-Label is licensed by the European Vegetarian Union and is an internationally-recognised symbol for vegan and vegetarian products and services.

Even though there are separate vegan and vegetarian logos, one potential issue for consumers is that the vegan symbol includes the word “vegetarian” in the design (mind you, so does The Vegetarian Society’s Vegan Approved mark mentioned above).

Cost: Currently, pricing information is not available. You need to fill in an online registration form before being contacted with a contract/licensing offer and prices.


  • The V-Label helps customers to feel confident that they’re buying vegan products that have been independently checked.
  • It is recognised internationally, especially in countries throughout Europe.
  • Tap into a network of vegan businesses.

Find out more about V-Label here.

Other vegan labels

Many countries have their own vegan labels, certifications and trademarks, some carrying more weight internationally than others.

You can see a full list of some of the other most widely used vegan certification marks here.

Cruelty-free labels

People often talk about vegan and cruelty-free labels as if they’re interchangeable but, in fact, this isn’t always the case. Specifically, cruelty-free products may contain animal products or by-products but will not have been tested on non-human animals or use ingredients that have been.

The beauty industry, for example, often uses ingredients such as beeswax, lanolin, shellac and albumen, all of which are derived from animals.

In countries such as the US and Canada, companies can claim a product is “cruelty-free” or “not tested on animals” without having to back the claims up. Some companies make these claims referring to the end product without knowing the testing background of the individual ingredients. It’s also possible for companies to say, “We do not test on animals” but still outsource the testing to another organisation.

These are all issues that worry vegan consumers. Having accreditation from a reputable organisation can help to build trust in your business.

We should also note that it’s possible for vegan products to have been tested on other animals. As Vegan Friendly points out, this typically happens when companies choose to self-certify their products as vegan on the basis that they don’t contain non-human animal derivatives but they may overlook the suffering caused by testing on other animals.

Leaping Bunny Cruelty-free Certification

The most commonly recognised symbol for cruelty-free products is the Leaping Bunny mark. In order to be able to display this mark, your company must not conduct, commission or be part of new animal testing, including for formulations or product ingredients. (Leaping Bunny makes the distinction of “new” animal testing because most ingredients have, at some point or other, been tested on non-human animals – even water!)

Notably, Leaping Bunny products do not have to be vegan.

You might want to consider applying to display the Leaping Bunny mark on your products if your customers are looking for an endorsement that they are cruelty-free and in no way involved in testing on non-human animals.

Cost: Joining the Leaping Bunny Program is free to companies headquartered in the US or Canada. Fees may apply in other countries.

To find out more about getting Leaping Bunny approved outside of the US or Canada, you can check this list of organisations that support the Leaping Bunny Program. In the UK, for example, you would apply through Cruelty Free International.


  • Some consumers look for a trusted cruelty-free mark alongside vegan certification to ensure that all bases have been covered – the Leaping Bunny mark is the most widely-recognised cruelty-free symbol.
  • 60% of consumers are more likely to buy products certified as cruelty-free.
  • The scheme is free if your business is based in the US or Canada.

Find out more here.

So, is vegan certification necessary?

The question still remains, is vegan certification necessary?

After all, no one oversees the license givers, which means that each organisation is free to set its own standards – and prices. Does this mean that the certifying bodies are profiting from something that is a courtesy label rather than a legal requirement?

There are also valid concerns that large organisations are able to splash out on certification, even if they have non-vegan products too, whereas it isn’t always affordable for smaller businesses, the very companies that may be entirely vegan.

Before you make a decision, you might need to get out there and do your research. Speak to your existing and/or potential customers and ask what they think about vegan and cruelty-free marks. Find out which of your suppliers are certified, who with and why. Be honest about your budget for this.

There’s no doubt that vegan certification helps consumers to navigate a complicated market with a little more confidence. For some people, this will be a fast track to connecting with a brand.

Do be reassured though that others will be more willing to do their own research, with or without a stamp of approval.

Only you can decide what feels right for your business.


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