EU policy level playing field
An increasing number of people, including a significant number of flexitarians, are turning to plant-based foods – products made from vegetables, grains, and pulses, including soya, nuts, fungi, and algae – due to concerns about climate change, biodiversity loss, human health, and animal welfare. Although the general public acceptance of plant-based foods has increased, the industry surrounding it lacks a level playing field. While plant-based foods are perfectly poised to help engender a healthy and sustainable future for the EU, they still face challenges such as achieving regulatory parity with meat and dairy foods, as well as a lack of funding to support efforts aimed at fostering their use.
Plant-based foods as part of the EU’s sustainability agenda
Agriculture makes a large contribution to the EU’s carbon footprint, with almost 70% of greenhouse gas emissions coming from livestock farming. Plant-based foods present a perfect opportunity for addressing several EU initiatives focused on tackling environmental challenges. These include:
- The Farm to Fork Strategy (F2F), which provides the foundation of the new EU agri-food policy and aims to accelerate the transition toward more sustainable and resilient food systems.
- The 2050 European Green Deal goals, where earmarked funding from the Euro Recovery Fund dedicated to plant-based foods is important to its success.
- Horizon Europe, the EU’s key funding programme for research and innovation, where funding for plant-based alternatives to animal-based products should have a much larger focus.
Opportunities in the plant-based sector
The EU’s plant-based sector is projected to be worth €7.5 billion by 2025. Retail sales in the region have grown by almost 10% year-on-year between 2010 and 2020. In addition to economic growth, the sector allows farmers to diversify agricultural crops, actively contributing to better resilience to climate change, while opening up new economic opportunities for many.
Strong leadership is needed from European institutions to stimulate incentives for plant-based industry efficiency and job creation. The European Alliance for Plant-based Foods (EAPF) advocates for a level playing field between plant and animal-based foods, accessibility to plant-based foods, and education about their health and environmental benefits. We need incentives that stimulate healthier and more sustainable consumption patterns, as well as fair market access for plant-based foods across Europe, including the removal of existing barriers such as higher tax rates. EU institutions need to capitalise on the environmental and health benefits of plant-based diets, translate them into policy actions, and create clarity about plant-based food products’ environmental impacts, which allows consumers to compare them with the impacts caused by dairy and meat.
The EAPF is driving the alternative protein policy transition
Together with members and partners, the EAPF led and coordinated the advocacy campaign against Amendment 171 (AM171, colloquially known as ‘plant-based dairy censorship’) in the Common Market Organisation (CMO) regulations. On 25 April, in the context of the trilogue negotiations between the European Parliament, the Commission and the Council, the EAPF succeeded in its mission to stop this amendment. Had it been implemented, AM171 would have imposed strict marketing rules on plant-based dairy alternatives, making it impossible to inform consumers properly. Packaging and marketing communications around the nutritional and environmental benefits of plant-based alternatives to dairy foods compared to animal-based dairy products would have been virtually impossible. Following the EAPF’s first major success in stopping the ‘veggie burger ban’ (Amendment 165) in October 2020, the EAPF’s second success with AM171 has spurred the EAPF on to focus on other regulations and policies that hinder the development of the sector. Ultimately, this should lead to offering citizens more sustainable food choices and help the EU to reach its climate goals.
Call to Action: Join the coalition of the willing to accelerate the transition
For years, there has been a strong and very well-resourced lobby advocating for the meat and dairy sector. Now, the plant-based food sector is working with one voice to help level the playing field, and doing so at a remarkable pace, even though the European Alliance for Plant-based Foods was only created last year. Companies and nonprofits quickly joined forces and created a ‘coalition of the willing’, driving and accelerating change towards more sustainable plant-based diets. The plant-based sector is thus taking a collective, multi-stakeholder approach for the first time, bringing together a diverse constituency of consumers, food producers, startups, manufacturers, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), nutritionists, large and small companies, financial organisations, and the research and academic community. The Alliance seeks to help promote sustainable food systems through advocating in favour of policies at the European and national levels that support plant-based foods and recognise their essential role in the ongoing transition to a sustainable future. We are happy to set up a call with all organisations and companies that share EAPF’s ambitions and that are interested in joining and supporting us. We will be happy to explain our objectives and activities in more detail and discuss how any potential collaboration could take form.
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Contact: Siska Pottie, Secretary General EAPF: [email protected]