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Why a potential ban of dairy-descriptors on plant-based products matters

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The popularity of plant-based milk has increased massively in recent years. As of 2020, 1 in 3 Brits drink plant-based milk (1). This mass switch has been driven mainly by environmental and health considerations, as people have woken up to the negative effects dairy has on people and planet. While more people are noticing the benefits of plant-based products, the dairy industry is worried about the increased interest in dairy alternatives. This has led some people in the dairy industry to lobby the British government and demand harsher regulations for brands that sell dairy alternatives, like Ombar. Current legislation already prevents us from calling plant-based milk alternatives "milk." Now, we may be facing a ban on homophones and misspellings, like "m’lk" and "y*ghurt" too.

A poll of 230 Twitter users by Plant Based News found that 95.1% people weren't confused by labels like plant-based labels. So, what's the point (2)? It seems people in the dairy industry are scared that people will accidentally pick up planet-positive plant-based m’lks instead of actual dairy milk and lose customers. We don’t think it would be the worst thing in the world if people started adding more vegan products to their shops, but this obviously terrifies the dairy industry.

The plant-based milk market might be growing, but dairy still dominates. While Brits spent around £394 million on plant-based milk in 2020, the dairy market was worth a whopping £3 billion that year (3). So, although the demand for plant-based products is growing, it’s still a new industry, mainly populated by smaller, emerging brands. If these proposed regulations go ahead, these small businesses would be forced to redesign and rebrand their products. This would potentially cost small businesses a lot of time and money and only benefit companies that sell dairy.

The ban would also force brands to think of new ways to market and label products, which may not be as instantly recognisable or understandable as "milk." This could lead to a decrease in demand for vegan and plant-based milks, which could ultimately harm brands that specialise in vegan and plant-based products.

We understand the need for responsible labelling, but this potential ban would only benefit the dairy industry, not small businesses or climate-conscious consumers. We hope the government will seriously consider the consequences that this unnecessary ban will have on people and planet before they take action.

1 & 3)