The Vegetarian Revolution: Clean Label foods should be the norm, not the exception – vegconomist

Priyanka “Pri” Srinivasfounder and CEO of The Green Society Livewrites a special guest post here for vegconomist, outlining his thoughts on why companies in the health food industry should engage with own-brand products.


Perspectives on healthy eating have changed dramatically around the world, ushering in a general “green” trend towards more plant-based and sustainable diets.

It has been shown that exclusively plant-based consumption has doubled in continental Europe between 2016 and 2020 and another report revealed the number of the number of vegans in the United States has increased by 500% over a similar period of time.

While it is important that this “plant revolution” retain its authenticity and credibility, even vegan “meats” may fall into the newly recognized category of “ultra-processed” foods, which has been associated with the same the health dangers of eating red meat and fried foods.

© Prostock-studio-stock.adobe.com

For plant-based food to remain a genuine effort towards sustainability and health, there must be regulations to protect consumer safety. This demonstrates a growing need for “clean label” products, or products that are truly complete but without chemicals or harmful additives. But what exactly is a “clean label” and how can we check it?

In the following article, we’ll help you define what’s missing (and sadly not missing) from plant-based food products, why we should switch to clean labels, why 100% plant-based products are the necessary next step to plant revolution, and how foodtech innovations will help achieve this new standard in the food industry.

Why plant-based ingredients are just the first phase of the plant-based food revolution

In a survey of 9,300 Americans, researchers found that 58% of people’s 2,079 calories consumed each day came on average from ultra-processed foods. Unfortunately, the population of the United Kingdom is not far either, with 56% of the average a person’s diet from ultra-processed foods.

These startling numbers likely have a lot to do with the fact that many of the ingredients in modern products are confusing with long, twisted names that the average person can’t decipher. In reality, nearly 64% of consumers would be willing to switch to another food product if they understood the ingredients and more than half (54%) would pay more for a food product with ingredients they understand or recognise.

Chocke Obleas

For those trying to be more plant-based, this problem is further exacerbated by the fact that fake meat can have more than 50 chemical ingredients— the same chemicals used by their meat counterparts. It is therefore important to remember that although at first glance plant-based meat alternatives may seem more organic, they are also made in factories like animal products. According to Consumer Freedoma non-profit organization dedicated to promoting personal responsibility and protecting consumer choices, the main chemicals and additives found in plant-based foods are:

  1. Tertiary butylhydroquinone (TBHQ) is a synthetic preservative that prevents discoloration in processed foods. The FDA limits the amount of TBHQ allowed in food because studies in laboratory animals have found an association between TBHQ and cancer.

  2. Magnesium carbonate is used in foods to retain color. Unfortunately, it is also used in flooring, fireproofing and extinguishing compounds.

  3. Erythrosine (red #3) is an artificial food coloring. The FDA prohibits the use of Red #3 in products such as cosmetics in 1990 after high doses of the substance were linked to cancer, but it can still be used in protein alternatives like meat.

  4. Propylene glycol is an odorless, colorless liquid used as a moisturizer in foods. It is also used in liquid form in electronic cigarettes and is the main ingredient in antifreeze.

  5. Ferric orthophosphate, also called iron phosphate, is a chemical used to fortify foods. It is also used as a pesticide to kill slugs and snails.

Additionally, some of the more popular plant-based food companies have an assortment of chemicals, additives, and unsustainable ingredients in their products. While they have made incredible strides for the plant-based food space, the Chilean company NotCo always uses ingredients like canola oil, which is genetically modified for planting. Worse, sprayed fertilizers and pesticides used on non-organic canola oil are often washed into the marine environment by rain and harm aquatic life.

dan-gold-unsplash-courtesy LiveGreen
Image courtesy of LiveGreen

Moreover, according to Consumer Freedomin an interview, Beyond meat CEO Ethan Brown claimed the company “simply takes amino acids and fats from another source and recreates them” in their products. This is without explanation of how (or even from where) this replacement occurs. Many of their products contain harmful dipotassium phosphate, potassium chloride, titanium dioxide, and maltodextrin.

It is really not surprising that we have discovered that 63% of plant-based consumers are looking to buy less processed alternatives and would like to see more options made with whole foods such as vegetables, showing why all-vegetable and “clean label” products must become the new prerequisite for plant-based foods .

The need for 100% vegetable, allergen-free and 360° green alternatives

It turns out there seems to be a certain double standard in the plant-based food industry. With the European Union rejects ban on meat substitutes but endorsing the ban on vegan dairy products, as far as the EU is concerned, “Veggie Burgers” are signed, sealed and approved by the government, but companies are restricted in their use of “cheese” and “yogurts” . At the same time, this report watch that 6 in 10 plant-based consumers would eat more meat alternatives if they were less processed.

alternative meats
Image courtesy of ProVeg International

To avoid this Catch-22 situation, the industry standard is changing and clean labels are becoming the new expectation in health food, not only because of the need, but also because, generational changes.

According to a First Insight 2020 Report, 73% of Gen Z consumers surveyed were willing to pay more for sustainable products, more than all other generations. And, despite being the youngest cohort with many of them still in school, they were willing to spend the most on additional costs, with 54% saying they would pay more than a 10% price increase for a sustainably produced product.

This shows that people are looking not only for plant-based food products, but also for sustainable products, sparking a trend in the need for transparent labels and healthier, cheaper and safer food products. Essentially a Clean Label product is not a specific food certification in the same way as organic or gluten-free, but rather, it means using recognizable and short food ingredients, in other words, authentic ingredients that are grown on the land rather than in the laboratory. Some companies are leading the way with this, pushing a new standard of all-vegetable, allergen-free, 360° green food products.

Live Green Co
©The Green Society Live

Let’s take a look at the food tech companies that have done the work to make Clean Label foods available and accessible to everyone and how their innovations have made all the difference when it comes to distinguishing between Clean Label and other herbal products.

The solution lies in foodtech innovations

As the food technology market is expected to exceed $342 billion by 2027, food tech companies will be the ones to watch in 2022 to quench this thirst for higher quality clean label food. Plant-based food products have made great strides in the food industry’s plant-based revolution, and while finding alternatives to meat has been a good start, the need for products with fewer additives, chemicals and allergens began to grow.

Artificial intelligence has played an important role in helping companies replace chemicals with natural alternatives and can also help maintain the credibility of clean labels. According to to a McKinsey report, emerging applications of AI will primarily disrupt the food industry by improving the efficiency of agricultural practices, reducing food waste, and using biotechnology to help reuse nutrients. This idea can go even further when it helps position AI as the companies that use it to play an important role in the transition to a circular and more sustainable food system, improving and revolutionizing the way food are grown, harvested, distributed and enjoyed by all.

ella-olsson-unsplash-courtesy LiveGreen
Image courtesy of LiveGreen

In order to continue this momentum and for the next phase of the plant-based food revolution to begin, this standard for all-vegetable products and clean labels will have to be the prerequisite. This is where technology can really shine in the food space, removing the smoke and mirrors from “plant-based” foods to manifest a clearer, less chemical pathway to healthier, more sustainable diets for all. .

Priyanka Srinivas is the founder and CEO of The LiveGreen company.

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