USA – The Alternative Protein Association, one of the largest associations of its kind in Europe, designed to promote the value of alternative proteins in the UK, has called upon a ‘common sense’ food labelling in plant-based dispute.

APA said the ‘common sense’ rules on food labelling would make life easier for shoppers, boost UK businesses and help the country hit its net zero goals.

According to lobbyists for the multinational meat and dairy industry, there is a need to crack down on terms like “soy milk,” “veggie burger” and “vegan cheese,” claiming they dupe shoppers into thinking they contain animal products despite being widely used and understood by consumers for many years.

In addition, a report from the association noted that removing familiar and widely-used phrases from packaging would confuse shoppers, making it harder for them to make informed choices when purchasing food items.

However, the report warns that further unnecessary red tape would create new obstacles for British start-ups and scaling businesses, forcing them to navigate costly bureaucratic restrictions and potentially driving them overseas or out of business altogether.

In the US, for instance, regulators recently issued common sense guidance allowing plant-based drinks to use the word “milk,” determining consumers are not confused by terms such as “oat milk.”

“US regulators trust American consumers to know that oat milk doesn’t come from cows, and therefore the APA calls for common sense labelling that reflects 21st-century language use and food choices, not more red tape that threatens to confuse consumers and strangle innovative British start-ups,” Jeremy Coller, president of the APA said. 

However, in February, the US government made recommendations that plant-based milk should carry a label pointing out the nutritional difference between dairy milk and alt-milk.

Officials suggested a voluntary label reform that could see brands specifically noting that cow milk has a “better” nutritional profile than milk made from soy, coconut, oat, almond, and other plant-based ingredients.

Finally, alternative protein companies were urged to ensure that a prominent modifier or label is visible on the packaging, for example, “plant-based” or “alternative protein.” This will help consumers understand that the product is a meat, fish, dairy, or egg alternative rather than a conventional animal-based product.

Earlier this year, the association called on the UK government to proactively support the alternative protein industry after research found a strong appetite among English consumers for plant-based meat alternatives. 

Notably, the plant-based sectors are accelerating, with data from Innova Market Insights highlighting 6.8% growth globally (CAGR 2021-2023).

Some subcategories are gaining momentum, with fish and seafood substitutes growing 68% CAGR between 2020 and 2022, soy and tofu products accelerating by 60%, poultry substitutes by 46% and red meat and pork substitutes at 42%.

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