The European plant-based foods association ENSA, together with alternative milk producer Alpro and 92 other food-industry representatives are calling on the European institutions to reverse recent moves they say will harm the producers of plant-based foods.
The issue specifically concerns plant-based drinks, commonly known as soy milk, oat milk and the like. Commonly, but not commercially.
Already, thanks to intense lobbying from the daily industry, such products are no longer allowed to describe themselves in dairy terms such as milk, yoghurt or cheese. According to the dairy industry, such nomenclature caused confusion in the minds of customers by intentionally allowing one type of product to masquerade as another.
To confuse matters still further, the European parliament has since then decided that it is perfectly acceptable for plant-based products to use names like ‘sausage’ or ‘hamburger’.
Now the net is to tighten even further around the plant-based drink makers. Next month the passage of a new set of proposed regulations into law.
This time, any comparison at all with milk will be outlawed, making it impossible to describe a product as ‘alternative to yoghurt,’ ‘contains no milk’ and even ‘creamy’. In other words, to prevent confusion with milk products, plant-based products will not even be allowed to say they are not milk products.
And it goes further. According to the notorious Amendment 171, the makers of plant-based drinks could be prevented by law from using the familiar cartons which are used to package milk, but also for soup, stock, fruit juices and other liquids.
It remains to be seen whether Amendment 171 will make it into the final regulation, but it is already being seen as a triumph of audacious lobbying – as if InBev were to declare that Coco-Cola’s use of aluminium cans was hurting beer sales.
For Alpro and their supporters in the plant-based foods sector, the importance of plant=-based food is too great to be harmed by such restrictions.
“Our mission is to promote more flexitarian diets,” said Sue Garfitt, general manager of Alpro and president of the European Plant-based Foods Association.
“We want to offer consumers more and more choice, variety and taste. I am convinced that policymakers are also starting to see the importance of shifting the food system in a more sustainable direction, where we work with nature instead of against it.”