Meat substitutes remain a niche product in Germany
The appetite of Germans for milk and meat substitutes is apparently more limited than is often portrayed. The German Farmers' Association (DBV) has now determined that a survey on labeling expectations for vegan and vegetarian substitute products published by the Lebensmittelklarheit project illustrates the great skepticism of consumers towards substitute foods. Only 20% of those surveyed said they eat all or a lot. According to the DBV, around 98% eat more or less animal products such as milk and cheese, and 83% each eat meat and fish.
This survey confirms one thing above all: the vast majority of consumers prefer a mixed diet. German farmers supply the necessary plant and animal ingredients. High demand for a clear indication of origin and husbandry help consumers to see where and how their food is produced. Food from Germany stands for the highest safety and quality standards.
According to the Farmers' Association, more than 40% of those surveyed found meat-like product names such as "vegetarian meat salad" to be misleading or ambiguous. The DBV sees this as confirmation of its demand for truth and clarity in food labelling. “We reject naming meatless foods like the original meat or sausage. We are of the opinion that the substitute food must differ significantly from the original not only in terms of its presentation, but also in terms of its name,” stressed Dohme. Just as there can't be "dairy-free milk ice cream" or "raspberry-free raspberry dessert," there shouldn't be "meatless roast beef" or, to stick with the study, "vegan chicken nuggets."
In view of the Federation of German Consumer Organizations (VZBV) study on the presentation and labeling of meat substitute products, the German Food Association sees the need to do more educational work and to establish a uniform and legally binding definition at EU level. As early as 2015, the Nutrition Association, together with the German Vegetarian Association (actually ProVeg), had agreed on a common understanding of vegetarian and vegan foods with regard to the ingredients used and the corresponding definitions. Unfortunately, the association has criticized that it has not yet been anchored in the European right. However, the joint definitions already formed the evaluation for the food control authorities of the federal states.
Last but not least, due to a lack of specific regulations, the German Food Book Commission laid down guidelines for the labeling and presentation of vegan and vegetarian substitute products four years ago, explains Dr. Marcus Girnau, Deputy Managing Director: "But we have already pointed out that the graduated labeling concept requires explanation for consumers and also poses a number of challenges for the manufacturing industry. For example, the explicit obligation to name the replacing ingredient could also lead to misunderstandings. "The results of the VZBV survey confirms this."
According to Girnau, false expectations on the part of buyers can only be prevented with education and information about the general composition of substitute products and how it is possible to come close to the original in terms of sensory, visual and taste. "It must be clear to everyone that substitute products are specifically developed and elaborately processed products, the composition of which can be found in the list of ingredients.