Swissveg: “V-Label Offers an Entry Into the Rapidly Growing Market of the Future”

Renato Pichler
Image courtesy of Renato Pichler

Swissveg is the largest representation of vegetarians and vegans in Switzerland. Since 1993, the politically independent organization has been working to permanently reduce meat consumption and make a plant-based, responsible lifestyle an attractive and healthy alternative accessible to everyone.

We spoke to Renato Pichler, president and general manager and CEO of Swissveg,  about V-Label, its distribution, and the work of the organisation behind it.

What is V-Label  what does it stand for?
V-Label marks/identifies vegetarian and vegan products and services. The project was launched  in Switzerland by Swissveg in 1996. Today almost all major vegan and vegetarian organisations in Europe stand behind the V-Label. It is also supported by the European umbrella organisation «European Vegetarian Union (EVU).

The mutual development of the guidelines ensures that all vegetarians and vegans can stand behind the label. Since the inspections are also coordinated by the largest local interest group, it is assured that the inspections are always implemented seriously.

In the German-speaking area these are e.g: Swissveg for Switzerland, ProVeg Germany e.V. for Germany and Vegan Society Austria (VGÖ) for Austria. Currently, the V-Label is also expanding outside of Europe (e.g. Peru and Chile have already introduced it).

In the production of label products no substances from killed animals are allowed to be used. In the vegan version of the label, all animal substances are also prohibited. The guidelines also include a ban on animal testing for V-Label products. Products that have to be declared with GMO (contains genetically modified organisms) cannot receive the label either.

How many companies and products in how many countries are already certified with the V-Label?
As the V-Label is used by small local companies as well as international corporations, the V-Label products are practically available worldwide. However, most V-Label products are still available in Europe.

Currently there are about 40.000 products from around 3500 companies  are certified with the V-Label.

In which countries there are local contacts for licensing, and which countries are upcoming?
Established representation we currently have (beginning of april 2019) in 22 countries. This includes Belgium, Bulgaria, Chile, Denmark, Germany, Finland, France, Croatia, Netherlands, Austria, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Switzerland, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Czech Republic, Turkey, Hungary.

We are currently setting the processus up in Bosnia and Herzegovina, South Africa, Macedonia and Canada. In addition, there are other countries that are in process. Especially in the Asian area.

Which benefits does the V-Label offer in comparison with other labels?
As the only label, it is distributed and  also controlled directly by the target group: The vegetarians and vegans in Europe – and also more and more outside of Europe. A great advantage is as well that the V-Label products are advertised directly by the associations in their country.

Compared to other, centralised-oriented labels, the whole control can take place in the mother tongue of the producer and local on-site inspections are also much easier to carry out. The label partner organisations don’t only offer the control, but also support the companies in the development of new products for the local or international market.

A side effect of this project is the networking of vegan associations through international cooperation. This strengthens the whole movement.

It therefore offers a win-win-win-situation:

  • Producers receive direct access to their target group and can also count on expert support.
  • The supermarket chains/shops receive a guarantee that the products are actually vegan and vegetarian.
  • The vegan and vegetarian associations are integrated in the international network in which they can exchange with like-minded people and benefit from each other.
  • In addition, the label financially supports the entire movement from which not only the individual NPOs benefit, but also the producers, as the market is thus enlarged.

Which products can currently be certified with the V-Label?
All food products, beverages, cosmetics, detergents, clothing and almost all other non-food products. In addition, restaurants and cafés (only in a few countries so far).

Which certifications are planned for the future?
We are still developing in the field of non-food-products. For example, there are already vegan garden soil and vegan condoms available. However, this product area we are tackling right now only on a small scale. For the moment, we are concentrating on the food and beverage sectors and the establishment of the V-Label in the cosmetics field.

The gastronomy market is currently only actively being licensed in Poland and Switzerland. In Poland with several purely vegan restaurants, in Switzerland with the restaurants of IKEA. This area will be further expanded in the future.

Why should companies have their products certified with the V-Label?
With the V-Label, the companies receive the support of the associations of their target group and can also profit from the long-standing know-how of the associations.

On the one hand, they can benefit from the strong local roots of the control organisation and, on the other hand, from its international network. The V-Label is not only another label, but offers an entry into the  rapidly growing market of the future. For many wholesalers, the V-Label is an important plus in their selection for their product range – for some it is even a mandatory requirement.

How is the revenue used?
The majority remains with the organisations in the individual countries. A small part is passed on to the V-Label GmbH in Switzerland to finance all the international coordination work and trademark rights worldwide. The V-Label GmbH is not profit-oriented: A possible profit is fully reinvested  in the project.

The majority serves thus for the licensing (control work). A possible surplus flows directly into the pubic relations of the vegan movement.