Trendy Plant-based food industry wrestles EU proposal to ban dairy comparisons

Almond milk has become very popular in the last five years

Plant-based eating is about to get a lot more colourful! And maybe not in a good way. 

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A new regulation forbidding food companies from comparing plant-based products to dairy in their marketing may be agreed upon by European Union mediators this week, notwithstanding firm protests from mass food production companies including Danone, Nestle and Unilever, Reuters reports. 

Several lawyers have stated that popular products like Nestle's Nescafe Almond Latte series of instant coffee, which is depicted on the box as a 'delicious alternative to dairy,' or Greece's leading Danone's Alpro 'plant-based alternative to Greek-style yogurt' would require new catchwords. 

The lawyers also added that this new ruling would go so far as pushing manufactures to change the whole package design of a soy milk carton because it could be interpreted as an 'evocation' of milk products and thus banned from the market for resembling a dairy milk carton. 

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Currently, the existing EU regulations prohibit plant-based products from being described as 'vegan yoghurt' or 'almond milk.' 

Delegates for Danone, Nestle and Unilever told Reuters 'they did not see a need for further restrictions on the labelling'. 

Pedro Neves, Danone's head of regulatory in Iberia stated that "This is unjust discrimination towards plant-based products," adding that "overhauling plant-based product branding would carry a high cost for companies".

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Other critics maintain their argument that 'the amendment goes against the commitment outlined in Europe's climate strategy to drive customers towards more 'plant-based diets', which have become extremely popular in Europe in the last five years. They added that 'the EU is caving to pressure from Europe's dairy industry, which has the largest production of milk relative to population size among the G20'. 

Siska Pottie, head of the European Alliance for Plant-Based Foods, told Reuters that:

"It would be almost impossible to communicate about plant-based products. Saying a product had half the carbon emission of butter could be forbidden. Even 'lactose-free might not be allowed... it's madness!"

This all comes at a time when Almond Milk is at its most popular, literally! Currently, plant-based drinks have the strongest foothold, with 10% of the market for milk. 

According to ING Research, plant-based product purchases, which currently sit at 3 billion euros ($3.62 billion) across the EU; are forecasted to rise to 5 billion by 2025! 

However, this is still just 4.1% of daily sales. 

An EU Commission spokesperson verified that the amendment would be discussed in negotiations in the EU Parliament this week, but also stated that it 'could not pre-empt the outcome'. 

The draft bill, named Amendment 171, gained the support of the European parliament last October with a 54 per cent majority of MEP's in favour of the proposed legislation. 

The bill now needs consent from EU member states and parliament, who will review it later this week along with the EU Commission. If the law is signed off, Amendment 171 would be rolled out across the bloc's 27 member states, including Greece.