ENSA statement – labelling of plant-based alternatives to meat

ENSA, the European Plant-Based Foods Association, represents the manufacturers of vegetarian and vegan alternatives to dairy and meat products. The market of plant-based alternatives to meat in Europe is growing fast, responding to consumers’ demand for healthy and sustainable protein sources. The global market is expected to reach $5.2 billion by 2020 (MarketsandMarkets), with the European market currently accounting for 39% of global sales (Rabobank).

For consumers looking for non-meat protein sources, it is important to be able to quickly identify suitable products through consumer-friendly names. Consumers consciously choose to buy vegetarian or vegan alternatives to meat and are clearly not misled by terms such as “veggie-burger” or “soy-sausage”. Research from Federation of German Consumer Organisations has shown that only 4% of German consumers have ever bought a plant-based meat alternative by mistake, which is on par with any other purchasing mistake regardless of denomination.

ENSA members have no interest in pretending their products are of animal origin. On the contrary, they claim the vegetable nature of their products, by the choice of denominations that always associate the shape of the product (steak, nugget, sausage, …) with its vegetable origin (veggie, plant, soy, …).

Consumers, on the other hand, have an interest in being appropriately informed what plant-based alternatives to meat are available on their supermarket shelves. While we welcome a legal framework that protects consumers from abusive practices, we believe that measures to restrict the use of terms such as “soy steak” or “vegetarian sausage” are disproportionate.

The current legal framework based on the requirement not to mislead consumers is a balanced approach, supported by the European Food & Drink industry at large. The principle of “not misleading consumers” allows a case-by-case assessment, which takes into account particular facts and circumstances, as well as the understanding of the local, average consumer. It is a concept that is well adapted to the complexities of a fast-evolving food market, as it allows at the same time to take into account product innovation and changes in consumer behaviour, and to take action against those practices that can be considered to mislead the average consumer at a given moment in time, in a given environment.

April 30th, 2018.