Plant-based food and beverage firms team up in bid to accelerate diet shifts

Alpro, Oatly, ProVeg UK and Upfield have formed a new coalition for the UK's plant-based food and drinks sector, in a bid to engage other businesses, policymakers and individuals with the transition to more sustainable diets.

Plant-based food and beverage firms team up in bid to accelerate diet shifts

Alpro (pictured) is one of the Alliance's five founding organisations 

Called the Plant-Based Food Alliance UK, the initiative is also supported by charity The Vegan Society. It states that its mission is to “act as a voice” for the sector, making engagement with the government, customers and the wider private sector more effective.

Members of the Alliance will collaboratively develop a charter outlining how businesses and the Government can work together to support the uptake of plant-based diets at the levels needed for environmental reasons. The Government’s own advisor, the Climate Change Committee (CCC), has recommended that the UK’s daily red meat and dairy consumption is reduced by 20% per person by 2050, against a 2020 baseline.

A key measure to be included in the charter is dedicated financial and practical support for farmers, to help protect and enhance their livelihoods as they change their business models to meet the growing demand for plant-based food. The post-Brexit Agriculture Bill will see farmers paid for “public goods” including woodland, flood prevention, soil improvement, animal welfare and carbon sequestration. The hope is to discourage farmers from believing that they must use intensive methods to make a living. However, industry groups have continued to push for further details.

Communications with consumers will also be a focus for the charter. It will call for the Government to develop campaigns explaining the health benefits and environmental impacts of increasing plant-based foods in diets, as well as providing information on simple ways to introduce more plant-based options at mealtimes.

Additionally, it will make the case for universal environmental labelling of food and drink products, so customers can compare impacts such as carbon. Eco-labels have been something of a talking point in the sustainability space in recent months, with brands trialling or planning to trial them including Compass Group, Lidl GB, Upfield, Quorn Foods, Tyson, Nestle, Sainsbury’s, Costa Coffee, Marks & Spencer and VeeTee Rice. 

“We’re already seeing people introducing more and more plant-based meals into their diets, driven by a desire to improve their health and to reduce the environmental impact of their food choices,” said the Alliance’s chief executive Marisa Heath. “This is a change we’re seeing in every demographic of the population.  

“We have an exciting opportunity to support this people-powered transition to a more sustainable, healthier food system, and to attract more innovation and investment in the UK as we do so. Preparing now for the shift towards plant-based foods will also shore up our national food security for future generations.” 

Until the charter is developed, the Alliance is focusing on recruiting new members and on making calls to action for policymakers ahead of COP26 and the publication of the Food Strategy White Paper. The White Paper will follow an independent review conducted by Henry Dimbleby, co-founder of restaurant chain Leon and the Sustainable Restaurant Association.

Jamie Oliver Group

In related news, Jamie Oliver Group has committed to ensuring that at least 65% of all new recipes are either meat-free or meat-reduced. The commitment covers recipes published in cookbooks, featured in TV shows, featured on the Group’s websites or posted on social media.

The commitment forms part of a new sustainability pledge, also detailing commitments to help consumers reduce food waste and choose seasonal foods.

Jamie Oliver Group’s managing director Zoe Collins said: “We know that we have a key role to play in helping to shape a more sustainable global food system, and we want to use the power of our platforms, and our ability to reach a huge global audience, to truly inspire people to eat a more sustainable diet.” 

Aside from changing its communications, the pledge details an ambition for food sourcing standards to be bolstered with new sustainability requirements by the end of 2021. This will extend to non-food products from 2022.

There is also a new target for the Group to reach net-zero across operations, products and partnerships before 2040. Plans for achieving this are yet to be published, and will need to cover restaurants, products licenced to supermarkets, cookbooks and multimedia.

Sarah George

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