Destination Digital

Amendment 171 Will Upend Everything For Dairy-Free Producers

What do you look for when you are looking for a “vegan cheese”?  Perhaps your go-to mental description is “a firm edible plant-based block that melts on toast, and is delicious sliced into sandwiches”? If only there were a snappier phrase that’s more easily understood for consumers…

How about if you are lactose intolerant and are looking for an oat milk or soy milk or other dairy-free alternative to pour on your cereal? What do you search for?  Perhaps you think right away “viscous whitish liquid that won’t make lactose intolerant people poorly and that can be poured from its container, used as a beverage and poured over other foodstuffs (but we can’t show you us doing that)”.


When a vegan cheese is not a vegan cheese

Already you can’t say ‘oat milk’ and ‘vegan cheese’, but you can still depict products in use and say things like ‘creamy’, ‘dairy-free’ or ‘alternative to milk’ to describe how they taste. But the right to do that is teetering in the balance due to Amendment 171.

If Amendment 171 is enshrined in EU law, these products may even have to change their packaging because the dairy industry has already got first dibs on the yoghurt pot (hello chocolate mousse 👋), the milk carton (hello orange juice 👋) and the butter tub (hello margarine 👋). Vegan cheese might not be allowed to continue to be fashioned into blocks because dairy cheese already has that design “patent-pending”*.

This is obviously a devastating prospect for dairy-free producers who will have to change everything about their product to order to continue to bring it to market, but from a more selfish vantage point as a digital marketer, what the hell are we supposed to do?

If you see in your analytics reporting that people are quite clearly looking for “dairy-free milk”, but you can’t use the phrases ‘dairy-free’ or ‘milk’ to capture their attention this is going to be hard work for content marketers, SEOs and Google Ads managers whilst we watch ‘peanut butter’ and ‘coconut milk’ still getting away with it.

With a proposed ban on depicting the use of the product in traditional dairy product situations, how do we brief our photographers?

  • If you have a dairy free mozzarella that’s just perfect for topping a pizza, but you can’t show it on top of the pizza.
  • If you have an oat milk that makes an excellent milkshake, but you can’t show it in a glass made up as milkshake.
  • If you have a dairy free cream cheese, but you can’t show it being spread on top of a bagel.
  • If you have a dairy free yoghurt… But you can’t show it being… erm… eaten with a spoon?

Several firms have come out in opposition to the amendment, And let’s hope they succeed in the way that the vegan sausage and burger industries prevailed last October when suggestions to ban the use of the word ‘burger’ and ‘sausage’ in association with a vegan format were overturned.

* it doesn’t

Vitalife, Oatly and Flora’s parent company are being the most vociferous in this campaign. And to be fair Oatly are bossing it with their campaign making the debate of legislation (boring) quite exciting and engaging for consumers who otherwise would have no idea that this sort of law is being passed as we speak.

We want to eat “vegan sausages” and not “columns of plant-based seaweed alginate covered foodstuffs”.  We want to eat a slice of “vegan cheese” on a cracker with a dollop of an excellent chutney and not a… well we don’t know what you’d call it if we are no longer allowed to put them into cheese-like blocks to slice them.

So let’s hope this madness ends at some point in the next three rounds of review the amendment is going through!


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