It’s soy drink, not soy milk!

From soy to almond, from hazelnut to chestnut, from coconut to rice, from spelt to oats. The dairy alternatives market is a truly thriving market that made vegetable drinks conquer entire shelves in supermarkets. 

After the massive advertising period of non-animal products that stole a large chunk of customers from the traditional food market, now vegan companies can sit back as watch the numbers rising on their own. Already in 2019 it was estimated that plant-based food business was worth 4.5 billion dollars. Among those who are lactose intolerant and those who do it for an ethical or health-related reasons, there are so many people who quit cow’s milk and replaced it with vegetable drinks. 

Milk producers, however, have not given up and, along with meat producers, they have been waging a war for years based on the accusation of abusing denominations deemed misleading because they “borrow” terms traditionally associated with foods of animal origin. In doing so they go “against the rules on labeling (Regulation (EU) no. 1169/2011) and the marketing of dairy products (Regulation (EU) No. 1308/2013) “, according to what some MEPs declared a few years ago.

Unlike what it decided for meat substitutes, for which the EU has given its permission to use terms such as “vegetable hamburger” and “vegan sausage”, the European Parliament has declared that on the packaging of milk substitutes it will not be possible to evoke dairy products in any way. So no more “soy milk” or “tofu cheese”.

While it was believed that the use of words associated with meat did not confuse consumers and that they would indeed be useful for the transition to a more sustainable diet, the EU has established that the words “yogurt”, “milk”, etc., are not eligible and can only be used for products that actually derive from milk.

The difference in the outcome would be based on a distinction between raw ingredients and preparation. In the case of meat, when we talk about sausages, hamburgers and ragout, we are actually referring to recipes and ways of cutting meat. On the other hand, as regards dairy products, when we talk about milk, butter and yogurt, we are talking about raw ingredients.

A (small) big win for milk producers. The president of Assolatte, the Italian Dairy Association, says: “I don’t think these drinks are responsible for the drop in milk consumption, since they were created to satisfy those who do not want or cannot consume milk. However, their growth is also the consequence of bad information and fake news circulating on milk. Moreover, after a few years of double-digit increase in sales, they have really slowed down the race and today they represent less than 10% of total consumption ”.

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