school scheme
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Missed opportunities for businesses and consumers alike: European Parliament excludes plant-based drinks from the School Scheme report

(4 min read)

Businesses lament the European Parliament’s decision

On Tuesday (9th May 2023), Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) voted against the inclusion of plant-based drinks in schools in their own initiative report on the EU School Scheme (which benefits around 20 million children across Europe).

This not only represents a blow to children who cannot consume milk for health or ethical reasons, but presents a significant loss of opportunities for plant-forward businesses.

“We are very disappointed by the outcome of this vote, but we are hopeful that the European Commission will still move ahead and include plant-based drinks in the scheme as part of their review, which is out at the end of the year.”

Lucia Hortelano

EU Policy Manager at ProVeg International

How could the vote affect businesses?

plant-based milk
Source: Pexels/Polina Tankilevitch

Essentially, by voting against the inclusion of plant-based drinks in the report, the European Parliament has potentially limited opportunities for businesses to touch base with young consumers (possibly affecting future plant-based diet choices). 

Additionally, the non-binding opinion, sent to the European Commission, could reduce the likelihood of plant-based companies securing profitable business partnerships with educational institutions (though there is still hope, since the Commission still has a chance to decline the proposal) . 

“Many children in the EU cannot, or do not want to drink cow’s milk for medical, ethical, taste, or environmental reasons. The growing plant milk market includes increasingly younger consumers, and there is much better availability of these products now in retail and food service settings but schools are being overlooked. Offering plant-based milk alternatives such as soya and pea in schools would have expanded business opportunities.”

Jasmijn de Boo

CEO at ProVeg International

What can you do to support better policies and greater opportunities for your company in the future?

To support the future of your plant-based business and maximise profits, it is vitally important that you engage in plant-based policy. 

Businesses must do their part – not just NGOs, like ProVeg – to make plant-based alternatives more accessible to consumers

school scheme report

Businesses can support more sustainable, plant-forward policies by:

  • Sharing research and sales data with European institutions (from a farmer to a consumer perspective) to showcase consumers’ demand for plant-based food and drink. 
  • Partaking in public consultations held by the European Commission and Parliament and pro-actively engaging with them.
  • Informing themselves regularly about important policy decisions under consideration that can affect their plant-based businesses.
  • Reaching out to policy-makers and speaking out more publicly to help raise awareness among the general public.  

In cooperation with an alliance of businesses and NGOs, ProVeg has co-signed a joint position letter supporting widening the scope of eligible products in the EU School Scheme. The letter recognises the needs of all school children by catering for children who cannot or do not want to drink cow’s milk for medical, ethical, taste, or environmental reasons.

The European Commission will now work on publishing a new proposal to implement the EU-funded Scheme. 

ProVeg calls on the European Commission to bring about change, and introduce unsweetened fortified plant-based alternatives to milk to the scheme. 

Key insights

To take advantage of all the opportunities that the plant-based industry has to offer and maximise your business’s profits, ProVeg International recommends getting involved in plant-based policy, like the School Scheme. 

Engaging with plant-based policy can help to prevent unfavourable business decisions, like the veto of plant-based drinks in the School Scheme report, but it can also enable you to help consumers access the products they want and need, as well as supporting the future of the plant-based industry and your business’s success as a whole. 

For more advice on developing your plant-based strategy, get in touch with one of our experts at [email protected].

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