Studies & Numbers

Majority of Italians Support Using ‘Meaty’ Terms in Plant-Based Products Labels

A new survey by YouGov on plant-based product labels in Italy, commissioned by the Good Food Institute Europe, reveals that 68% of Italian consumers believe companies should be able to use “meaty” terms freely for plant-based products.

“Our survey confirms that consumers understand terms like plant-based sausage and ham”

At the same time, 69% believe that terms like ‘hamburger’ and ‘milk’ are appropriate for describing plant-based products, and only 21% feel these terms should be restricted because they could confuse consumers.

Francesca Gallelli, Public Affairs Consultant at the Good Food Institute Europe, shared, “Our survey confirms that consumers understand terms like plant-based sausage and ham and that the ban on meat-sounding terms does not introduce any necessary protections; on the contrary, it is bound to create confusion, complicating access to products that play a key role in diversifying and making our food system more sustainable.”

68% of Italian consumers believe companies should be able to use these “meaty” terms freely for plant-based alternatives to animal-based products.
© The Good Food Institute Europe

Eating less meat

The study also reveals that 70% of respondents believe meat consumption in Italy is too high, while 60% plan to reduce or stop eating meat altogether in the next two years.

The GFI points out that these findings correlate with data from CREA and the Smart Protein study, which indicate a strong trend toward reducing meat consumption and a high acceptance of plant proteins among Italians. Smart Protein additionally highlights high levels of trust in plant-based products regarding food safety (66%), labeling accuracy (64%), and reliability (63%).

Banning labels limits access

In 2023, the Italian government banned using meat-like terms such as “steak” and “salami” to protect consumers from confusing plant-based with animal food products. In a similar move against alternatives and food innovation, the government also passed a law prohibiting cultivated meat.

According to the GFI, the labeling ban makes it harder for consumers to access these products since companies cannot use the terminology that indicates the nature (characteristics and cooking) of the meat alternatives. Additionally, it harms plant-based companies, which now face substantial costs for rebranding and packaging.

Following this prohibition, Italian businesses, which operate in Europe’s third-largest market for plant-based products, according to GFI, feel targeted by the government. The implications of Meloni’s government raise questions about why it favors the meat industry over innovative solutions that support a green economy benefiting all sectors, not just one.

felsineoveg's plant-based deli slices
© FelsineoVeg

These prohibitions, however, have yet to be implemented. Gallelli explains, “The Italian law, currently unimplemented and potentially unenforceable due to the violation of the TRIS procedure, has left companies in the sector in a limbo where they do not know if and when they will have to change their marketing strategy.”

For context, draft laws should be subjected to the European Commission’s TRIS procedure, a mechanism intended to prevent national parliaments from passing bills that could affect the European Single Market without consulting other member states and the Commission.

“It is clear that banning ‘meat-sounding’ terms directly harms Italian companies, which would be forced to comply with a regulation that could be rendered unenforceable in court. Rather than wasting time with short-sighted and unnecessary restrictions, governments across Europe should recognise the role plant-based companies can play in boosting food security and building robust economies,” said Gallelli responding to Italy’s willingness to revisit the law.

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