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News, Blogs & Press Releases » Roadmapping the plant-based future – how do we bring about change?

Roadmapping the plant-based future – how do we bring about change?

Jen Elford, Head of Policy & External Affairs at the Vegetarian Society, looks at the cross-sector Plant Futures event last week in London.

Although the Vegetarian Society’s main campaign focus is on influencing government to support plant-based initiatives, it’s just as important for our success as a change-making organisation to engage with  producers and retailers.  

That’s why our sponsorship of the cross-sector Plant Futures event last week in London gave us a great opportunity to get around the table with a whole range of actors, to discuss how we put wholefoods front and centre in the plant-based transition.

In an age of ever more processed food, where  years of public messaging on healthy eating has failed to cut through, giving consideration to the role plant-based producers and retailers can play in shaping a better food future is critical to our movement’s strategy. 

The event saw over 70 delegates, from producers to nutritionists, from retailers to campaigners come together for a day-long workshop.

Looking at both the barriers and opportunities that exist to promote the consumption of plant-based wholefoods, the aim of the workshop was to identify the key priorities around which to build a roadmap for collective action. 

Several key takeaways emerged from a series of panel discussions and roundtables throughout the day: on how to improve retail and food service environments to encourage healthier, plant-based consumption, how to improve marketing and public understanding, and how to improve supply chain opportunities and funding for plant-based businesses to enable them to compete effectively. 

A major theme of the day was seizing the opportunity to act collectively. It became clear the principle could be applied across the piece: to secure procurement contracts, and to cooperate on meeting basic business needs for everything from refrigeration space to pallet supply.

Plant-based food is massively competitively disadvantaged in the current food system in terms of price and retail prominence by the way meat and dairy dominate government subsidy, and are given marketing priority by retailers.

In the absence of central government support, practical collective action could be a way for the plant-based movement  to create breakthrough on economic and social challenges, just as the cooperative movement first did around two hundred years ago, 

Away from the business roundtable the policy roundtable’s focus moved back and forth between top level concerns of levelling subsidy for plant-based food and the need for effective carbon taxation to the practical considerations of how to build a bank of essential real-world case studies on which the movement could draw. 

The Plant Futures Wholefoods workshop is one in a series of ongoing day-long events which aims to generate a roadmap for a plant-based future. If you, your company or organisation would like to participate, please get in touch with me, our Head of Policy & External Affairs, Jen Elford at jen@vegsoc.org.

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