The global plant-based foods industry united on 12 and 13 October, in Brussels, Belgium, to address the pressing challenges faced by the sector at the 2nd edition of the International Plant-Based Foods Working Group (IPBFWG) Summit. Under the theme "The Role of Plant Foods in Transitioning to a Sustainable Food System," Leaders from around the world convened to explore innovative strategies, shared insights, and discussed the industry's path forward.
The IPBFWG, a coalition of international plant-based trade associations representing several countries – Sanjay Sethi from Plant Based Foods Industry Association (PBFIA), Rachel Dreskin from Plant Based Foods Association (USA), Siska Pottie from European Plant Based Food Alliance; Michela Bisonni from European Plant-Based Foods Association; Leslie Ewing from Plant Based Foods Canada; Larry Lee from China Plant Based Foods Association; Marisa Heath from Plant Based Food Alliance UK; Bruce McIntyre from Australasian Plant Based Association; Rocio Cavazos from Mexican Association of Vegan Entrepreneurs; Ebru Akdag from Turkey Plant Based Foods Association; Donovan Will from South Africa Plant Based Foods Association; among others is dedicated to promoting a healthier, more sustainable, and compassionate food system.
Sanjay Sethi, executive director of PBFIA, stressed the importance of forward-thinking initiatives and visionary plans to tackle industry challenges. He said, "Plant-Protein Cluster is a vital strategy for enhancing ingredient production and sourcing. Nations should also prioritize the creation of Centers of Excellence, emphasizing the need to cultivate virtual connections among scientists worldwide to promote innovation.”
He appealed to Marjolijn Niggebrugge from Nestle to facilitate discussions with the dairy sector to help establish a dialogue to address the challenges. Additionally, he mentioned that PBFIA had invited the President of Indian Dairy Association in a forum last month with a thought to initiate a conversation and foster linkages between the parallel industry.
In conjunction with the main event, the Industry Forum provided an exclusive platform for industry leaders to discuss critical topics ranging from nomenclature concerning plant-based foods all over the world, the need for fortification and market growth strategies. Cecillia McAleavy, director of Sustainable Eating & Public Affairs at Oatly; Perran Harey, senior global policy lead at Upfield; Alex Holst, senior policy manager at GFI Europe; representatives from Nestle and others, joined the discourse.
Plant-based foods industry, while brimming with innovation and enabling sustainability, faces its unique set of challenges. These challenges include navigating a complex regulatory framework tied to capital, strictions on labelling and nomenclatures often compounded by a lack of collaborative government systems. One of the core responsibilities recognized by associations is to foster an environment that empowers startups to ascend to the same level of success as established corporations in this field while boosting employment opportunities. These associations drive toward defending plant-based foods from restrictive labeling laws and support member companies with marketplace strategies and future planning.
The Summit featured keynote speakers, including Eric Lambin, Member of the group of chief scientific advisors to the European Commission and Professor at Stanford University; Cindy Schoumacher, policy officer at the European Commission’s DG Research and Innovation, Bioeconomy & Food Systems Unit and Jasmijn De Boo, global chief executive officer of ProVeg International and many more.
The IPBFWG Summit aimed to identify solutions to present and future challenges facing the plant-based food movement and its members. Discussions at the Summit covered a wide range of topics, from navigating labeling regulations to meeting consumer expectations in the plant-based food sector. Brainstorming sessions sought to uncover opportunities and challenges that plant-based foods trade associations must collectively address.
This landmark event underscored the importance of international cooperation in advancing plant-based foods as a key component of a sustainable and healthy global food system.