The Australian Red Meat Advisory Council has commissioned a survey from Pollinate which claims that consumers are being misled by the way meat alternatives are labelled and packaged.
According to the organisation, 60% of those surveyed said they found the packaging misleading, while 75% believed it should not be legal for plant-based products to be described as meat. The Council claims that older people and those who don’t speak English as a first language are especially vulnerable to being misled because the products are packaged similarly to conventional meat.
Perhaps not coincidentally, the Australian Senate is about to review whether alt-meat products should be able to use meat terms such as “chicken” and “beef” on their packaging. But would banning these terms really benefit consumers?
Not according to Allen Zelden, president of digital eco-conscious forum FUTUREVVORLD and founder of Intrinity Global. He argues that restricting the use of these terms could actually create more confusion.
“Removing familiar terminology can only lead to consumer turmoil, not transparency,” he told Inside FMCG. He also questioned the new survey findings, referencing research commissioned by Food Frontier and Life Health Foods. This study found that 91% of Australians had never mistakenly bought a plant-based product instead of meat or vice versa.
Previous attempts to restrict the terminology used to describe alt-meat products have largely been unsuccessful. In the EU, lobbyists famously tried to ban the use of terms such as “burger” and “sausage” to describe plant-based products, but the proposed restrictions were voted down. Some US states have also tried to pass similar regulations, but have attracted backlash and accusations that the laws violate companies’ First Amendment rights.
But if it’s questionable whether consumers are really being misled, why are meat industry lobbyists so determined to impose restrictions? Zelden doesn’t think concern for the consumer is their primary motivation.
“Given the explosive growth trajectory for the Australian plant-based food category, the meat, seafood, and poultry sectors are undoubtedly motivated to stifle this growth so as to protect their commercial interests before that of the consumer,” he told Inside FMCG.