More vegetarian and vegan recipes to appear on food packaging

Several supermarkets and food producers plan to increase the number of vegetarian and vegan recipes available on their processed food packaging in the coming years. Dutch consumers should soon be able to find hundreds of vegetarian and vegan recipe tips on pre-packaged meals and sauces from Jumbo, Plus, Conimex, Knorr, Koh Tai and Pataks.

Wakker Dier, an organization that focuses on livestock and farm animal welfare, led the campaign to convince supermarkets and food producers to provide more plant-based recipe variations on packaged products as part of the drive to shift protein consumption in the Netherlands toward the 40 percent animal-based and 60 percent plant-based ratio recommended by the Health Council of the Netherlands.

Pre-packaged and prepared meals can play an important role in encouraging and facilitating plant-based food consumption, according to Wakker Dier. ‘Packages and bags are ideally intended to inspire consumers by providing simple recipes. And they can also help people to choose plant-based food more often,’ says Colin Molenaar of Wakker Dier in AD newspaper.

From June 2023 until March 2024, Wakker Dier gathered information about recipes included on packaged meals and sauces to determine if they were vegan or vegetarian or offered tips advising consumers on how to cook the dish using plant-based proteins. Products from Jumbo, Albert Hein, Plus, Aldi and Lidl were included in the study, and 657 recipes were evaluated. Fresh meals, soup and meal boxes, and spice and sauce mixes were included in the analysis. Approximately 82 percent of the recipes examined were meat or fish-based. Several companies were found to offer very few plant-based recipes, according to Wakker Dier. About 80 to 100 percent of the recipes on Maggi, Albert Hein, Conimex, Knorr and Honig packages are meat- or fish-based. However, other manufacturers, including Lassie and Grand’Italia, have already pivoted and currently offer product lines that are largely vegetarian-friendly.

More Conimex products with vegetarian and vegan recipe tips should be on the shelves by 2026. Maggi and Albert Heijn both plan to increase the number of recipes that include vegetarian preparation tips, although neither has committed to reducing the number of meat-based recipes. While several brands agreed to boost the availability of vegan and vegetarian recipes, there was one notable hold out, Honig. About 80 percent of the company’s recipes feature meat or fish, and there are no plans to shift towards providing more vegan and vegetarian options.

Reducing the amount of meat and fish consumption has both environmental and health benefits. The Netherlands Nutrition Center, an organization that provides guidance about diet and nutrition, suggests limiting individual meat consumption to no more than 500 grams per week for health and environmental reasons. Lowering the amount of processed meat consumed is also recommended, as diets featuring lots of these products can lead to chronic health issues such as diabetes and certain types of cancer.

According to the Nutrition Center, tofu, legumes, tempeh, and nuts are all great sources of plant-based protein if you’re interested in reducing the environmental impact of what you consume. However, Wakker Dier says that the average Dutch person consumes more meat than recommended by the Netherlands Nutrition Center and obtains the majority of their protein from animal sources – far more than the 40 percent recommended by the Health Council of the Netherlands.

Those who identify as flexitarians are well represented in the Netherlands, according to Wageningen University & Research, but vegetarians make up a relatively limited percentage of the population. Approximately 0.5 percent of the Netherlands follows an entirely plant-based, i.e. vegan, diet according to Statistics Nederlands.

The total per capita consumption of meat dropped from 2021 to 2022, during which poultry and beef consumption also declined. The Dutch population overall has been eating less meat since 2020, according to data gathered and analyzed by Wageningen University & Research. Meat consumption in 2022 was at the lowest point it’s been since 2005. Data by Statistics Netherlands reveal that approximately one-quarter of all main meals eaten in the Netherlands last year were vegetarian.

Written by Lorre Luther