We’ve been asking ourselves a lot of questions in the food and drink team here at H+K following a debate earlier this month by members of the European Parliament’s Agriculture Committee.

Its members have recently backed a proposed ban on vegetarian and vegan products using any terminology what-so-ever that is traditionally associated with meat on their labelling and product descriptions.

This isn’t an entirely new idea or new news as it follows a similar move in France where the Government made the decision to pass an amendment to its Agriculture Bill in early 2018 banning meat free products using similar terms like “vegetable steak”, “soy sausage”, or “bacon-flavoured strips”.

The proposal, to be debated by MEPs following the elections next month, means if it becomes EU law, brands like Quorn, Linda McCartney Foods and even own label supermarket meat free ranges have a big, big job on their hands.

These companies will face a massive marketing and communications challenge to re-frame all their products so that they remain appealing to their consumer base.

The whole initiative has attracted a great deal of industry debate with one side saying current labels like meat-free meatballs are deceiving consumers and the other side defending them as a means to let consumers know how these products can be cooked and enjoyed.

Interestingly, The Vegan Society has joined the debate deciding the move is a desperate ploy by the meat industry to restrict vegan and vegetarian marketing.  Whilst another article I have read, says banning the use of meat associations on products would breach the ‘fundamental human rights’ of vegans.

Whilst I’m not vegan or vegetarian myself, more a flexitarian, with one or two meals a week being substituted for plant-based products, I’m not really sure I fancy a Vegan Tube (aka sausage) for lunch!  Nor do I for that matter fancy a Vegetarian Disc for dinner nor a Vegetarian Strip for that matter.

Whilst I am supportive of clear and transparent labelling, how far will this initiative go and how far will the EU push future ones?

Will it affect Vegan fishless ranges when the next EU round of law bans the use of fish-related phrases?

Could we even see the end of Courgetti Spaghetti, Cauliflower Rice and Butternut Squash noodles being challenged as misguiding consumers too?

Surely, we should be giving consumers their due?  Nowadays they aren’t taken in by marketing hype and have a lot more rational and emotional intelligence.  Surely, they can’t think Quorn’s vegan range that includes Chicken Free Slices contain chicken, can they?  There’s a very big clue in the name…Chicken Free! 

Ian Withington is Managing Director, Food + Drink and founder of BrandGUARD, a modular, proprietary service that helps marketers proactively manage and test complex messages and the communications process aiding the development of an audience-centric strategy.

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