Politics & Law

Plant-Based Companies Respond to French Decree Banning Meat-Like Words on Veggie Packaging

Yesterday 27 February, the French government issued a decree prohibiting the use of words such as “steak, “ham”, “cutlet”, or “escalope” on the labels of meat-free foods.

The ruling comes in response to allegations from the meat industry that such terms are confusing for consumers. Similarly, last December, the Republican (Les Républicains) party of France introduced a bill to prohibit the production and marketing of cultivated meat in the tradition-focused country.

“They know the writing on the wall, the future will be plant-based.”

The measure seriously compromises the sales prospects of home-grown French innovations in the face of major foreign companies not affected by this new legislation, argues French vegan whole-cut leader Umiami.

Despite the French government’s support for the industrialisation of the plant-based sector, including the Umiami startup factory, these regulations seriously hamper their economic development and their efforts to promote a more plant-based diet, which is crucial to achieving national climate targets and improving public health, say Tristan Maurel and Martin Habfast, co-founders of Umiami.

Umiami team
© Umiami

A bill against freedom of entrepreneurship

Laurent Gubbels, Head of Content & Socials at Heura, who is based in France, shared on social channels: “Isn’t it ironic? The person violating your freedom isn’t who you think it is. Yet I often get asked: “Why do you want to forbid people to eat animals?” I don’t want to ban anything because we don’t need to. First, I think this would be counter-productive. Second, we don’t need a law for this, consumers will naturally switch to plant-based meat in the future because it will be tastier and better for them.

“This case isn’t so much about plant-based meat, it’s about freedom”

“On the other hand, if you need a law to force people to do something, you probably know you have no other choices to exist which is why the animal meat lobby has pressured governments all over the world. They taste plant-based products, they see the tractions it gets and how products get better every day. They know the writing on the wall, the future will be plant-based.”

Heura responds to French decree
© Heura

Gubbels concludes: “This case isn’t so much about plant-based meat, it’s about freedom, the freedom of entrepreneurship, the freedom of consumers to choose and the fact that governments use tax-payers money against their own interest in terms of freedom, sustainability and health. It’s also funny to me that meat lobbies give more money to lawyers than to their farmers. And for the future of plant-based meat, there’s no better endorsement for your product than your competitors wanting to ban it so thank you for the free advertisement.”

“They’re taking you for hams”

Plant-based pork producer La Vie responded on social media in its usual witty manner. “The government has just published a decree to ban veggie steak from being called that, on the grounds that it would be “misleading for consumers” who would not be able to understand that “veggie” means that the product is made from plants. In short, they’re taking you for hams,” said the fast-growing brand, posting a humorous video in which it questions the public at the Salon de l’Agriculture, and in another post sharing a slideshow explaining a timeline of the events behind the decree.

Meanwhile, Cedric Meston, co-founder of HappyVore, states, “The decree published yesterday morning banning plant designations of origin in France only applies to French producers! Foreign players will be able to continue to use the names ‘plant-based steak’ legally in our supermarkets where French players will be banned. What for? The European Parliament has passed the opposite law, i.e. authorising the designation ‘plant-based steak’ throughout the European Union. French law takes precedence over European law only for French companies.

Happyvore pack shot
©Happyvore

Meston further explains: “In concrete terms, what is the impact? The plant-based France market is growing continuously (+15% over the past 3 years) […] The decree thus favours players such as Nestlé who will continue to use the name ‘plant-based steaks’ against the nice French startups that are looking to develop the category (HappyVore, LA VIE™, HARi&CO), and which not only benefit French employment (130 employees at Happyvore); but also French agriculture by using local ingredients as much as possible.

“The plant-based France market is growing continuously (+15% over the past 3 years)”

“Unfortunately, the plant sector was excluded from the discussions on the decree and we were unable to propose other solutions that would not penalise French producers. And the subject seems to be closed in the current context.”

“Dismayed”

Speaking to vegconomist this afternoon, Tristan Maurel and Martin Habfast of Umiami express their disappointment with the French government. “We’re dismayed by the introduction of this latest legislation. The French government had been championing innovation and the promotion of plant-based alternatives within the market.

“However, this development serves as a setback to the progress made by French food companies and manufacturers striving to offer sustainable and healthier meat alternatives. Our dedication lies in local production and economic development, driven by our pride in our expertise. Yet, this places us at a disadvantage compared to foreign competitors who aren’t bound by the same standards of transparency and precision.”

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