Founded last month, Plant Based Food Finland (or Pro Vege in Finnish) brings together large grocery chains such as Lidl, Kesko and SOK alongside vegan dairy producers such as Oatly and Porlammi dairy, non-profit organisations such as WWF, and a range of other companies and organisations.
“The overall purpose of the association is to increase the share of plant-based foods in the Finnish food system,” said Oatly’s Niklas Kaskeala, who is also Plant Based Food Finland’s chairman. The way to achieve this is to make plant-based food attractive to as many people as possible. “The association is committed to elucidating the interconnections among the food system, climate change, biodiversity, culinary traditions, and public health.”
Some of the main routes to achieving this are, according to Kaskeala, through activities such as engaging in strategic activity aimed at key policymakers, organising collaborative events and seminars, commissioning and conducting research and surveys, and implementing communication, consultancy and campaigns promoting plant-based nutrition.
Education about plant-based nutrition is a particularly key aspect of Plant Based Food Finland’s mission, and is ‘one of the priorities outlined in the association’s bylaws’, Kaskeala told us.
Collaboration across industry
Collaboration is an important part of the association’s goals. For example, it will collaborate with other, similar organisations based in other European countries. “The association will seek to collaborate actively with other similar organisations, especially its counterparts in other Nordic countries and elsewhere in Europe.”
However, while collaboration is important, because of national autonomy on many food-related issues, it is important for Plant-Based Food Finland to work on the level of nation rather than continent or world. This is why a Finland-specific association has been founded.
“Many decisions affecting the food system are taken on a national level,” Kaskeala told us. “Finnish companies have thus recognised the need for a national association.
“Similar associations already work in several other European countries. The Finnish association will obviously aim to establish close relations with other national and European-level actors and coordinate joint efforts to increase the share of plant-based food in our food systems. However, on a day-to-day practical level, I foresee that the Finnish association will mainly focus on national-level activities.”
One of the biggest industry-wide issues is the decline in plant-based meat sales, with companies such as US-based Beyond Meat losing a significant level of its revenue in recent months. What challenges face the association in assuaging these industry-wide problems?
“The main challenge lies in broadening the appeal of plant-based food to mainstream consumers, not just the early adopters and environmentally conscious ones,” Kaskeala told us. “Additionally, a significant hurdle is presented by various policies and market structures that create a disproportionate competitive landscape for plant-based foods. How the association tackles these issues remains to be decided jointly by its membership.”