Veggie Victory: Food Labelling Progress for Plant-Based Products
Major South African plant-based food brand retains its retail status despite opposition by the Red Meat Industry Forum (RMIF). ProVeg welcomes more discussion about new regulations.
Over the past year the South African government has sought to ban the use of certain product names for plant-based meat alternatives on the basis that they were too similar to the names of processed meat products, allegedly misleading shoppers.
This disagreement over food product nomenclature is not unique to South Africa and is an issue currently being tabled in the global food industry as traditional animal product lobbyists mount their resistance to the advancement of the plant-based sector
Last week France’s own agriculture ministry announced plans to ban the use of 21 meat terms including “steak,” “ham,” and “fillet” – from labels on all plant-based food products – as an example. If approved, France will boast some of the world’s strictest laws banning the use of meat terms to label plant-based foods. With plant-based foods representing a significant part of the solution to tackling climate change; it’s not without irony for a nation known for the UN Climate Change Conference (COP21) Paris Agreement – aimed at reducing carbon emissions – to adopt this stance.
It has been found that vegans are responsible for 75% less greenhouse gas emissions than meat-eaters, according to new research reported on by the New York Times. There’s no refuting that a simple dietary change can make an extraordinary impact.
In the interim the Consumer Goods Council of South Africa (CGCSA) has hobbled the planned seizure of plant-based products from supermarket shelves, already championing a temporary interdict in 2022 after it became aware of the state’s plans to forcibly withdraw these options, which was only prevented shortly before enactment.
Recently, Plant-based food brand the Fry Family Food Co. in South Africa won their appeal against the Food Safety Agency and the Red Meat Industry Forum, which declared the naming and labelling of some of their products in contravention of Regulation R.1283
“This victory for Fry’s is a substantial one for the plant-based food industry and will play a critical role in helping the relevant stakeholders move forward with discussions that will hopefully lead to the development of regulations specifically aimed at meat analogue products,” said Tammy Fry, co-founder of Fry’s and plant-based food advocate.
The labelling furor renews the need for the South Africa Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development [DALRRD] to look into fairly regulating this space without the wholesale ejection from the marketplace products that are clearly sought after by plant-based consumers.
Says Donovan Will, director for ProVeg South Africa, “Many consumers who are reducing their meat intake for environmental, ethical, health or religious reasons are specifically looking for plant-based products that offer the same taste and texture of the meat products they grew up with. If a consumer is looking for a vegetarian burger that mimics a chicken burger they are going to be very confused if the manufacturers of these products can’t call a product like this exactly what it is – a chicken-style veggie burger.”
There is little substance to the argument that consumers are confused about what they are purchasing; especially in South Africa where retailers tend to keep their plant-based meat alternatives distinctly separated from animal products. Customers gravitate towards familiar brands, and it’s completely equitable to name a food item functionally in the form and style that it represents.
Legal efforts denying plant-based alternatives reasonable and equal retail opportunity in the free market predicated on naming conventions is a red herring when one considers profit motives. Revenue in the meat substitutes market is projected to amount to US$ 15.6m in 2023, with the market expected to grow annually by 17.03%, according to Statista. An increased demand for plant-based meat alternatives has now brought this pivotal issue to the fore.
Transitioning to a plant-based diet has proven health and environmental benefits. There’s a clearly established need for these products and while steadily becoming more numerous in South Africa, they shouldn’t be denied to willing consumers.
About ProVeg South Africa:
ProVeg South Africa is the local branch of ProVeg International. ProVeg is an international food awareness organisation working to transform the global food system by replacing conventional animal-based products with plant-based and cultured alternatives.
ProVeg works with international decision-making bodies, governments, food producers, investors, the media, and the general public to help the world transition to a society and economy that are less dependent on animal agriculture and more sustainable for humans, animals, and the planet.
ProVeg has permanent-observer status with the UNFCCC, is accredited with UNEA, and has received the United Nations’ Momentum for Change Award.