When we were doing our annual planning for 2020, little did we know what was to come. While the global Covid-19 pandemic has certainly brought unpredicted obstacles and forced us to adjust plans and projects at lightning speed, it made one point very clear: having the food industry shift towards a plant-centric food system is not just crucial, it is happening and, fueled by the crisis, has accelerated even further and more quickly than we ever imagined.
At ProVeg, we have produced a comprehensive report that links pandemics to our food choices. We have also worked with stakeholders from the food-services sector, the food industry, cultured-meat startups, and politicians in order to leverage the shift towards a more sustainable and resilient food system.
Food Industry & Retail: Lidl
In 2020 our Food Industry and Retail Team had a fruitful collaboration with German retailer Lidl, with several events and campaigns taking place. In June, ProVeg co-branded a social media campaign with Lidl entitled Die vegane Grill Werkstatt (the vegan barbeque workshop), which explored the topic of plant-based barbecues on Facebook and Instagram. It was a huge success, with very high community engagement. Lidl shared some recipes and challenges and ProVeg participated with vegan-barbecue tips, facts about the 5 Pros, and other information. We even joined a fascinating online cooking event! The campaign resulted in the launch of numerous plant-based products such as the Next Level vegan-BBQ sausage and Mondarella, a plant-based Mozzarella. Later in the year, ProVeg contributed to Lidl’s ‘Vegan Wednesday’ campaign on Instagram, while ProVeg’s Dirk Liebenberg participated in Lidl’s Veganes Dinner, a live, online show.
Food Industry & Retail: V-PLACE started
From 2021, ProVeg will be participating in the V-PLACE, a project funded by EIT Food, whose results will be communicated through an app, ProVeg’s channels, and FoodUnfolded. The goal of this project is to enable consumer choice in vegan or vegetarian food products. This project aims to gather all the important information and empower plant-based consumer choices in an easily accessible and consumer-centric platform. Additionally, the app will include games and quizzes , presenting health and environmental benefits, along with other essential data and advice. In October, ProVeg co-created a video about the benefits of the plant-based diet as a teaser for the V-PLACE project. The video will soon be posted on the FoodUnfolded website.
Food Industry & Retail: what do European consumers want?
This year, the spread of the coronavirus has hurt almost all industries, turning the healthcare crisis into an economic one. However, the demand for plant-based food is growing, along with a corresponding increase in plant-based alternatives across many categories. ProVeg International surveyed several thousand consumers in nine European countries in order to identify priorities for product improvement and development, based on consumers’ experiences of purchasing and consuming plant-based products. As Dr Kai-Brit Bechtold, Senior Consumer Research Scientist at ProVeg, mentioned, “The survey has revealed enormous potential for developing and launching new plant-based products in multiple food categories, with clear growth opportunities.”
ProVeg International has surveyed several thousand consumers across nine European countries in order to identify priorities for product improvement and development based on consumers’ experiences of purchasing and consuming plant-based products.
Cultured meat: a promising market
2020 was marked by many advances in cellular agriculture, partially driven by an increased awareness of the urgent need for food-systems change that was one of the consequences of the pandemic. ProVeg is dedicated to paving the way for a fair reception of cellular-agriculture foods in society, and has published informatives articles, collaborated on the first Franco-German study on cultured-meat acceptance, which revealed promising results, and organised a webinar, bringing together leading figures such as Prof. Mark Post from Mosa Meat, Hélène Miller from Aleph Farms, and David Brandes from Peace of Meat to talk about the role of cultured protein in the context of resilient food strategies. We are looking forward to 2021 and more advancements in the cellular agriculture sector – a promising approach towards building a more resilient, sustainable and fair food system.
With the CellAg Project, ProVeg is uniquely positioned to support the development and acceleration of this highly promising approach to feeding the world, while improving human and planetary health.
Campaigning to stop the EU Veggie Burger ban
In 2019, ProVeg kicked off the Veggie Burger Ban campaign, which was picked up widely around the world. This October, the stakes were raised, with the European Parliament voting on the implementation of the ban. We’re proud to say that, together with other organisations, we managed to stop the Veggie Burger Ban! Unfortunately, at the same time, the European Parliament approved an extreme tightening of the ban on dairy terms for plant-based products. There is still hope that we will stop the ‘dairy ban’ – ProVeg will continue to strive for a common-sense solution to this issue and will align its actions accordingly, calling on the European Council to reject the adopted restrictions on plant-based dairy products during its trilogue meetings.
Launching the Smart Protein project
The four-year-long Smart Protein project started, as planned, on 1 January 2020. ProVeg International is one of 33 partners from industry, research, and academia, across 21 different countries, collaborating on the project, which is led by the School of Food and Nutritional Sciences at University College Cork in Ireland. This €10 million EU-funded project seeks to develop a next generation of foods that are cost effective, resource efficient, and nutritious. Alternative protein sources such as legumes and side-streams from beer and pasta production are used to generate ingredients as well as plant-based meat, seafood, dairy products, and baked goods. Stay up to date with the latest Smart Protein news by registering for the newsletter.
Company Catering and School Meals: plant-based solutions on the rise
In company canteens, people look for delicious meals that provide the body with sufficient energy and nutrients for a productive working day. To meet this need, ProVeg, together with catering company Eurest, have created a plant-based menu line for German canteens – with the project named ‘Powered by plants’. Due to its very successful launch, the partnership between ProVeg Food Services and Eurest has been extended until 2022. Another successful collaboration was the optimisation of the ‘Green Line’, a menu line offered in the company Innogy’s canteens. The goal was to offer more whole-plate dishes and fewer individual components.
With regards to our school activities, we are proud that the Harvard-based Planetary Health Alliance (PHA) endorsed two of our school projects in 2020. Its publication Planetary Health Case Studies: An Anthology of Solutions features a case study that explores how we can change our global food system to sustainably support the projected 10 billion people who will inhabit our planet by 2050. Our school projects, ‘Plant Powered Pupils’ and ‘Climate-Efficient School Kitchens’, were recognised in this significant publication.
Moving events into the virtual space
In February, ProVeg organised the 6th Vegan Experience Area, at Biofach, the world’s leading trade fair for organic goods. Exhibitors showcased their plant-based products, while panel discussions, expert talks, and live cooking demonstrations emphasised the growing importance of plant-based diets for organic-food producers.
We did not allow the pandemic to stop us from following our mission – which is to engage with the food industry, introducing them to the latest developments and opportunities around alternative proteins, and inspiring them to be part of the rapid transformation of the food system that is currently taking place. As such, we quickly adapted and ventured into the digital realm, with the result being that the New Food Conference webinar series was born. The webinar series included topics such as developments in the flourishing startup scene, the role of functional ingredients in meeting and advancing consumer demands in the plant-based sector, the progress of cellular agriculture, and a look at the plant-based market in India, as well as expert insights into the plant-based supply chain.
Supporting the startups at the forefront of innovation
16 new food and food tech startups from across the world joined the ProVeg Incubator in 2020. Due to the challenging circumstances of COVID-19, startup founders needed our support this year more than ever. In April, we successfully moved our entire accelerator programme online in order to be able to continue supporting entrepreneurs amid the pandemic. In July, we held our first ever online Demo Day to mark the end of the current cohort, with over 120 guests logging in worldwide to watch our startups pitch to investors. Buoyed by the success of our inaugural digital programme, we launched the second edition in October. We’ll be working with this group of startups until January next year, and we’re very proud that it’s the first cohort we’ve had in which women are in the majority – almost 60% of the entrepreneurs on the programme are women. We are delighted to be supporting more women leaders and scientists in the food space and to be playing an active role in working towards gender parity in the industry.
ProVeg in Spain
Despite the setbacks of 2020, ProVegSpain carried out some very well received projects, including the Veggie Challenge, which was held for the first time in Spain, with over 26,000 participants. In June, we launched the World Meat-Free Week, together with several corporate partners, and also hosted a webinar about changing the global food system, all of which garnered extensive media coverage. We also released the Spanish-language version of ProVeg’s Food & Pandemics Report. As a result, the report was able to be shared not only across Spain, but also throughout most of Latin America. Furthermore, we have begun to work in collaboration with Menú por el Planeta, a student project which will aim to implement plant-based menus in universities. The Veggie Burger Ban was also widely covered by Spanish print media, radio, and TV news.
ProVeg in Poland
2020 has been a great year for ProVeg Poland in terms of collaborations with business. We began a complex and fruitful cooperation with Unilever’s Knorr brand. It started with our presentation on the environmental impact of food production for their annual internal conference, and resulted in partnering with their educational programme for primary schools, which aims to change the eating habits of 7-9-year-old children. We also provided several consultations, including a training session for top Polish meat-producer Olewnik. ProVeg Poland featured in various food-industry publications and events, including webinars for the MEATplace portal and a discussion panel on the Polish-Dutch trade mission. The World Plant Milk Day campaign in Poland was also a great success! We also partnered with Upfield on creating a report on the eating habits of Poles.
V-Label – clear labelling and broad dissemination
In 2020, V-label Germany was able to make great progress in expanding the V-label footprint. Innovative products were licensed, including plant-based tuna, a cordon bleu dish, and even sneakers. In addition to food, cosmetics and non-food items are becoming more and more important – even printed products such as books, flyers, and stickers can now carry the vegan V-label. Additionally, quality-management processes have been standardised and improved, and numerous inspections were carried out in participating companies. An increasingly important topic in 2020 is international cooperation, which was strengthened and expanded by an international V-label conference, which, in turn, strengthened the brand.
Together, we are making a difference
Although this year went very differently from how we had originally envisioned it, we put alternative proteins on the agendas of many stakeholders. And, although plant-based eating is unstoppably on the rise, we still have a long way to go to achieve our mission. Thank you for joining us on this journey. Transforming the global food system is a marathon, not a sprint, and every single step towards removing animals from our food-supply chain makes a difference, both immediately and in the long term. We trust that you will have a relaxed holiday season with your loved ones, and, most importantly, stay healthy and happy.