Good news and bad for plant-based meats

“Urban munchers of veggie burgers and vegan sausages be damned,” is how Politico carried the news that EU lawmakers in the Agriculture Committee of the European Parliament (AGRI) this month voted in favour of proposals to ensure terms such as “steak”, “sausage” and “burger” should be reserved exclusively for products containing meat.

Rapporteur and French socialist MEP Eric Andrieu told the site that this wasn’t about opposing vegetarian products or helping the meat industry, but guiding consumers who are confused by the terms. Referring to veggie burgers as burgers is “nearly deception”, he said.

This is a touchy subject. A coalition of environmental and animal welfare associations told Euractiv that there is no evidence of consumer confusion. “The battle is not over,” said Jan Felix Domke, head of public affairs at the European Vegetarian Union.

Indeed, there is a long way to go before this becomes law – the elections in May could result in a new committee that wants to start from scratch, for example.

There was better news for plant-based products in the UK this week: Tesco announced that it would be stocking vegan and vegetarian products in the meat aisles. Sainsbury’s has done the same.

“It makes sense to range them next to each other in the same aisle and bring a wider breadth of options available to choose from,” said Derek Sarno, director of plant-based innovation at Tesco.

As Marketing Week noted in a recent assessment of how retailers are responding to the growing appetite for plant-based food, the way products and ranges are positioned in-store will be key to maintaining cut-through in a society where meat-based diets have been the norm for so long.

If retailers don’t place meat and meatless products side by side, there is a “risk that shoppers, many of whom will likely be meat eaters, won’t bother to look for vegan aisles or simply forget they exist”, the journal noted.

In the UK, non-vegans ate 92% of plant-based meals last year, according to Kantar.

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