The Danone-owned brand has added its name to a joint letter alongside the European Plant-based Foods Association (ESNA) and 90 other organisations represented by the European Alliance for Plant-based Foods. The coalition is calling on Member States and the European Parliament and Commission to oppose Amendment 171, arguing that it goes against EU consumers’ interests in transparent communication, fair competition and the bloc’s own climate ambitions.
Amendment 171 will be discussed by the EU Trilogue - made up of the Council, Parliament and Commission – in March. According to Alpro, if the regulation goes through it would lead to a ban on the use of expressions such as ‘alternative to yoghurt’, ‘ does not contain milk’ or the use of terms like ‘creamy’ to describe plant-based dairy alternatives.
Alpro argued that these restrictions will ‘disrupt consumers’ understanding of their available options’, limiting their ability to ‘make informed choices’.
“Alpro does not believe that adding new restrictions to plant based ‘denominations’ will enhance consumer information in any way, nor that it will provide consumers with clearer, more accurate or even more useful information,” the company said in a statement this week.
The ‘food revolution’ for healthier and more sustainable diets
Alpro’s ‘mission’ is to ‘feed our future with plants’ and contribute to the global ‘food revolution’, the development of a move to a more sustainable and healthier food system. According to Alpro General Manager and President of the European Plant-based Foods Association, Sue Garfitt, supporting consumption of plant-based options is an important part of this.
"Millions of people are increasingly aware of the personal and environmental benefits of plant-based diets. Alpro’s mission is to promote more flexitarian diets. We want to bring more and more choice, variety and taste to consumers,” she explained.
Accessibility, availability and promoting ‘informed’ choices is fundamental to this ambition, according to the company’s assessment. To this end, Alpro strives to offer consumers a ‘wide range of plant-based products’ that fit into plant-based or flexitarian diets and ‘provide them with knowledge to make informed food-choices’.
Alpro expressed concern that the regulation would limit the plant-based sector’s ability to communicate on sustainability or nutrition issues. “It would deprive consumers of important information about the suitability of plant-based products in their diet, e.g. through prohibition of the words ‘lactose-free’, ‘dairy-free’ or through comparisons between dairy and dairy alternatives on e.g. nutrition or sustainability characteristics.”
As part of its sustainability journey, Alpro added that it continues to work towards zero-impact for its own operations, reducing its carbon footprint, water use and waste, the company said. Highlighting its approach, the group pointed to its partnership with WWF on water management as part of Danone’s One Planet target setting program.
Regulatory environment must reflect green ambitions
Garfitt said that the importance of the food system in future sustainability is increasingly recognized by European regulators, with the incoming Commission launching its Farm-to-Form (F2F) strategy as part of its Green Deal plan.
“I am convinced that policymakers too are beginning to recognize the importance and urgency of shifting the food system in a more sustainable direction, working with nature rather than against it,” she explained.
“That is why we are asking the EU Trilogue to stand by the position of the Commission and reject Amendment 171 because current legal framework is sufficient when enforced.”
Amendment 171: ‘Overregulation without positive impact’
Alpro argued that there is already a ‘clear framework in place’ for the regulation of dairy terms and suggested that the provisions of Amendment 171 would be ‘overregulation without positive impact’.
Under the current system, names like ‘soy milk’ or ‘vegetarian cheese’ are not permitted in the EU.
“Amendment 171 is not a mere modification of these existing rules as it would only impose extra restrictions that are unnecessary, excessive and counterproductive. If interpreted in the strictest sense, it may even impact widely accepted commercial practices such as using terms like ‘creamy’ and ‘buttery’ to inform the consumer about the texture and flavour of a plant-based food,” the company suggested.
The use of illustrations – such as a white beverage being poured into a glass – or packaging that is also used for dairy-based products could also come under pressure.
In terms of F2F targets, Alpro stressed that an impact assessment of Amendment 171 has not been completed.
“Amendment 171 was not subject to an impact assessment; Alpro considers that its negative impacts on consumers, the environment and the plant-based food sector would be disproportionate to its legitimate aim,” the company noted.
EDA flags ‘support for the principle’ of protecting dairy terms
Responding to the debate, the European Dairy Association said that some stakeholders have been ‘propelled… to create and promote misunderstandings’.
“We appreciate that even those speaking out against the Amendment 171 claim today that the ‘existing rules are satisfactory’ and hence support the principles of the protection of dairy terms,” the EDA noted in a letter to French MEP Éric Andrieu, who tabled the amendment.
Protecting dairy terms ‘protects the consumer quality expectations’ and the ‘fairness of market competition in the dairy sector and beyond’, the dairy association suggested. ‘Conscious’ dietary choices require ‘clear labelling’, EDA insisted.
“Any ambiguity vis-à-vis the true nature and nutritional value of a food product in its name or marketing strategy is undermining the basic and prima vista clarity for consumers in their daily dietary choices,” the letter argued.