Are ‘veggie burgers’ and ‘oat milk’ confusing to consumers?
The growing popularity of plant-based alternatives to meat and dairy beverages is taking share of market from the companies that produce the real things. Many producers selling animal-based products object to plant-based alternatives being able to use terms such as bacon, burgers or milk in their marketing. Conflating the real thing (animal-based) with an unrelated product (plant-based), they argue, leads to consumer confusion and damage to their businesses.
While companies marketing products made from animals are on the defensive, they do have allies. In Mississippi, a law was passed that prohibits companies selling plant-based alternatives from using meat terms in labeling or marketing. Violators of the law could face up to a year in prison and a fine of $1,000. The state has not yet begun enforcing the ban.
Upton’s Naturals, who manufactures meatless alternatives, and the Plant Based Foods Association have filed a suit against Gov. Phil Bryant and the state’s Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce, Andy Gipson, which claims that the restrictions on what companies can call their products violates free speech protections under the First Amendment. The intent of the law, the parties argue, is to restrict competition.
The law’s supporters argue that it is about clarity and clearly defining meat as containing animal-based ingredients. The previous system in the state , they argue, may have led to confusion among consumers who were unclear about the distinctions between meat and meatless.
Dan Staackmann, founder of Upton’s Naturals, dismissed the confusion argument.
“We have not had a single complaint from any consumers about any kind of misconception about what our products are,” he told the Associated Press.
In December of last year, a federal court dismissed an appeal that would have prevented Blue Diamond Growers from using the term almond milk. Sales of cow-based milk have been declining for years as more consumers choose plant-based alternatives. Some dairy producers, reading the writing on the wall, have adapted by turning out dairy-free alternatives of their own.
- Selling ‘veggie burgers’ in Mississippi can land you in prison. Company sues state over law – The Associated Press/Mississippi Clarion Ledger
- Upton’s Naturals
- No Use Crying Over Spilled (Almond) Milk: Ninth Circuit Upholds Dismissal of Almond Milk Labeling Suit – National Law Review
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Should makers of plant-based alternatives to meat and dairy products be able to use terminology such as burgers or milk in their marketing or is it confusing to consumers? Which approach benefits food retailers more?