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1st August 2023  Editorial by: newprotein staff writer

Are Consumers Confused by Alt Protein Products? Evidence Suggests Not

Under the guise of consumer protection, lobbyists for the international meat and dairy industry are calling for ever-stricter regulation of the terms used to advertise alternatives. The UK-based Alternative Proteins Association (APA) has however found no evidence to back up claims that consumers are confused about what ingredients are in plant-based food and drinks.

The APA has authored a report containing recommendations for producers and regulators. The report examines the current challenges and opportunities facing the alternative protein sector, in terms of labelling and marketing its products in the UK, it provides practical recommendations for the industry and calls on the UK to level the playing field for the sector.

The report asserts that surveys, in the UK and Europe, consistently demonstrate that people understand what products they are buying and do not support labelling restrictions provided the nature of the product is clear.

More recently, opponents of alternative proteins have stated that the consumption of meat and dairy substitutes could lead to nutritional deficiencies. The APA has investigated the evidence behind this idea and argues that in most cases, alternative proteins actually have favourable nutritional profiles compared to animal products.

The association recognizes the need to clearly label food to ensure consumer understanding and safety, but is against needless restrictions which do not serve their stated purpose and impose costs on businesses and the food system, while also confusing consumers.

The report concludes with the APA's recommendations for alt-protein product labeling regulations:

  • Alternative protein products should be able to use meat and dairy denominations like "milk," "burgers," “fish,” and “eggs,” as well as derivatives such as “creamy” or “cheesy,” provided they have an appropriate prefix, suffix, or qualifier, such as “not,” “alternative,” etc. Many dairy-associated terms are currently not allowed in the EU. Examples of acceptable product names include “chicken-less nuggets,” “beef-style burgers,” and “not milk.”
  • Labels should clearly state the products' ingredients (e.g. “oat milk”) and/or make clear its plant-based nature (e.g. “plant-based burger”).
  • A prominent modifier or label visible should be visible on 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 product.
  • Common allergens, such as soy or wheat, should be highlighted on packaging

As Jeremy Coller, President of the Alternative Proteins Association, said: “US regulators trust American consumers to know that oat milk doesn’t come from cows, so why do their UK counterparts assume British shoppers lack such common sense? 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.”

Download the full report



Date Published: 1st August 2023

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