Plant-based food makers score a huge win after a court rules they can keep calling their products 'meat'
- The state of Mississippi proposed a new regulation Thursday that reverses an earlier law banning plant-based foods from using words like "burger" or "hot dog" on labels.
- The proposal is a step in the right direction for companies such as Upton's Naturals, which sued the state, as well as Beyond Meat. Both make plant-based meat products and use words associated with meat to describe them on labels.
- Many states have passed laws banning plant-based food companies from using words associated with meat or dairy. Even in states where no laws have been passed, companies like Beyond Meat have come under fire for labels.
- Read more on Markets Insider.
It may soon be legal to call a veggie burger a veggie burger in Mississippi.
That's thanks to a new regulation proposed late Thursday by the Mississippi Department of Agriculture that reverses an earlier labelling law that made it a crime for vegan companies to use words like "burger" "bacon" and "hot dog" on products not derived from animal protein.
The change is the result of a First Amendment lawsuit brought against the state by Upton's Naturals and the Plant Based Foods Association, with the Institute for Justice. Upton's sued the state of Mississippi saying that the regulation violated its First Amendment right to label food in a way consumers understand.
Upton's filed the lawsuit because "business have the right to tell the truth," said Justin Pearson, a senior attorney at the Institute for Justice, in an interview with Markets Insider. "Customers understand that foods labelled as meatless do not contain meat."
The new rule is a win for companies such as Upton's and Beyond Meat, which make plant-based meat alternatives and rely heavily on converting meat eaters to be regular consumers. The market for plant-based meat is currently $14 billion in the US, and analysts say it could grow to be $140 billion in a decade.
Beyond Meat's IPO performance - shares rose as much as 800%- and numerous high-profile partnerships with fast food chains show that there is significant demand for the products.In addition, a number of large, traditional food companies have gotten in the plant-based game, including Tyson Foods, Hormel Foods, and Kellogg.
But as demand has boomed, so has the number of states pushing back on the words companies use to describe plant-based protein products. Arkansas, Louisiana, and Wyoming have passed laws similar to the one in Mississippi about labeling plant-based meat.
What words can be used on plant-based products is up for debate even in states were no laws have been passed. In Wisconsin, the dairy lobby has campaigned heavily against plant-based milk and pushed back on companies using words such as "butter" and "milk" on vegan products, Bloomberg reported.
While the regulation proposed in Mississippi doesn't impact any other pending litigation, "our hope is that this will help to convince other state governments to do the right thing," Pearson told Markets Insider.
In addition, he said that there's about a month before the regulation will be enacted by the state and becomes a final regulation. In that time, the Mississippi Department of Agriculture could change its mind, Pearson said, adding that he does not expect that to happen.
"This new ban was created solely to prevent competition and we're very happy that it looks like that ban will be going away," Pearson told Markets Insider.
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