Interviews

ProVeg Czechia: “The Interest in V-Label is Unprecedented and Demand is Constantly Growing”

In 2021, the Czech Vegan Society became ProVeg Czechia, as interest in plant-based diets began to grow rapidly in the country. At the time, a quarter of Czechs were already reducing their meat consumption, with 6% avoiding meat altogether.

Since then, the Czech plant-based market has only continued to grow, and ProVeg Czechia is now one of 11 ProVeg offices worldwide working to raise awareness of food system transformation. The organisation has been instrumental in bringing the internationally recognised vegan and vegetarian trademark V-Label to the country, along with helping to make plant-based foods more mainstream.

Julie Karabinová joined ProVeg in 2021, working as V-Label certification manager for the nonfood section and New Food Forum co-organizer. We spoke to her to find out more about the increasing interest in V-Label and the state of the Czech plant-based industry.

What successes do you like to look back on?
One of the most profound successes concerning V-Label was establishing the brand in the Czech market and gradually making it mainstream. When it comes to the New Food Forum, I am glad we are able to help expand the Czech plant-based market every year. For instance, this year we were able to enrich the market by bringing a wide range of delicious Mondarella [plant-based cheese] products to one of the biggest online food retailers in the country.

© V-Label

Since when has V-Label existed in Czechia?
My colleagues brought V-Label to the Czech Republic in late 2018. Back then, the biggest obstacle was to make V-Label known so that it appealed to Czech food producers. In the beginning, the focus was on reaching out to fully vegan companies, and then to those that produce vegan product lines. The first client was a producer of fruit bars; however, Soyka, the Czech plant-based milk alternatives producer, was among the first four customers. Thanks to V-Label and the subsequent income from license fees, my colleagues could start a whole organization (named the Czech Vegan Society back then), and thus run projects promoting plant-based eating. Bringing the V-Label to the Czech market meant helping consumers make educated choices, making the plant-based category more visible, and making the whole market more transparent.

How many products and companies have been licensed to date?
We have certified 124 companies, and among our biggest clients are Garden Gourmet, Emco, Semix, and Bona Vita. One of our recent successes was certifying plant-based sausages developed by a previously meat-only producer.

What actions or projects are you planning in the future? What are the most important goals of V-Label in Czechia?
We help our V-Label customers with product development so that their products are highly appealing to customers while also being nutritionally balanced. In addition, we are able to help producers enlarge their targeted customer spectrum by making their products fully plant-based — often by replacing just one ingredient without compromising on taste. Via V-Label product certification, we help to create a transparent environment for consumers by making plant-based products trustworthy and easy to find, thus helping to increase sales.

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How do you assess the state of the plant-based industry in Czechia in general? Which developments speak for progress, and what challenges have to be overcome?
We are aware of the fact that we are still a country where products have to be imported in abundance, because Czech plant-based food producers do not have support from the government. Therefore, we closely cooperate with the state authorities. We are constantly consulting with them — for instance, on legislation on the issue of labeling plant-based alternatives to avoid bureaucratic regulation, which is not favourable for consumers in the Czech market.

In general, the demand for V-Label is constantly growing. The interest in V-Label is unprecedented nowadays. Some of the key retailers in the market already require their suppliers to have products V-Label certified so that they align with their strategy to focus on product sustainability. Long story short, we are gradually becoming mainstream in the Czech market.

Where can interested people meet you in person?
People can meet us at the New Food Conference (Berlin), the New Food Forum (Prague), Biofach, seminars organized by various Czech ministries, and round table discussions.

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