Meaty names for plant-based meat: 7/10 Italians in favour

A new survey reveals that Italian consumers believe terms such as ‘hamburger’ and ‘dairy’ are appropriate for plant-based products.

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27 June 2024

A pie chart in the style of plant-based meat on an italian flag, showing 69% of italians believe terms like hamburger and dairy are appropriate to use for plant-based products.
Image created using Dall-E

A new survey conducted by YouGov and commissioned by the Good Food Institute Europe reveals that the majority of Italian consumers consider terms such as ‘hamburger’ and ‘milk’ to be appropriate for plant-based products. As many as 69% of respondents believe these terms are appropriate to describe plant-based foods, while 68% believe companies should be allowed to use them freely for plant-based alternatives to animal products. Only 21% believe these terms should be banned because they could confuse consumers.

In 2023, the Italian government, without presenting any supporting data, banned terms related to conventional meat such as ‘steak’ or ‘salami’ for plant-based meat products. This measure not only confuses consumers by depriving them of terms that make it easier to understand and use plant-based products, but also directly harms Italian plant-based companies.

Francesca Gallelli, Public Affairs Consultant at the Good Food Institute Europe, said, “Our survey confirms that consumers understand terms like plant-based sausage and ham and that the ban on meat-sounding terms does not introduce any necessary protections; on the contrary, it is bound to create confusion, complicating access to products that play a key role in diversifying and making our food system more sustainable.”

A measure similar to the Italian one banning meaty names for plant-based meat has been suspended by the French Council of State, which questioned its legitimacy in the context of EU law and recognised the harm this measure would cause to French companies in the sector.

“The Italian law, currently unimplemented and potentially unenforceable due to the violation of the TRIS procedure, has left companies in the sector in a limbo where they do not know if and when they will have to change their marketing strategy,” Gallelli added.

70% of survey respondents also thought that meat consumption in Italy is too high, and 60% plan to eat less meat or none at all in the next two years. 

Italy is the third-largest European market for plant-based products with a 21% increase in sales between 2020 and 2022 and a turnover exceeding 600 million euros. The largest market for plant-based meat in Europe, Germany, has taken the opposite approach and is embracing the growth of this promising sector, recently revealing that the right of plant-based companies to use meaty terms for their products would soon be codified in the official guidelines for plant-based foods. 

This survey confirms the trend highlighted by CREA’s Food and Nutrition Center in 2023, which reported half of Italians have worked to reduce their meat consumption, as well as from the Smart Protein study, which ranks Italian consumers at the top in Europe for acceptance of plant-based proteins. The same study highlights a high level of trust in plant-based products regarding food safety (66%), the accuracy of labelling (64%) and reliability (63%).  

Methodology: The data used are based on an online survey conducted by YouGov Deutschland GmbH, in which 1046 people in Italy participated between April 12 and 15, 2024. The results were weighted and are representative of the Italian population over the age of 18.