- The Plant Based Foods Institute is a new nonprofit group dedicated to business and policy issues to expand the reach and adoption of plant-based food. It’s a sister organization to the Plant Based Food Association, the trade group for the industry segment.
- PBFI has four core initiatives: connect plant-based food makers with U.S.-based ingredient sources and manufacturers, work to include plant-based nutrition in policy efforts, develop industry-standard life cycle assessments, and increase the availability of plant-based foods in institutional and commercial foodservice settings.
- While there are other policy groups dedicated to alternative proteins, this is the first in the United States that is wholly dedicated to the plant-based space. It is closely tied to PBFA, with most of its key staff and board members also from the trade group.
As the slowdown in sales growth over the last year has proven, plant-based products need to do a little more than just get on shelves to be successful. Consumers need to be given distinct reasons to buy them — and those could be cost, nutritional value, sustainability and familiarity.
PBFI can help create and showcase those reasons. A release about the new group said it "incubates, implements, and evaluates strategies that empower ... broadscale change.”
“Through the work of PBFA and the Institute, our goal is to create a world where values and business interests harmonize to create a plant-based food system that respects the dignity and health of all living beings and the planet,” Rachel Dreskin, CEO of PBFA and PBFI, said in a written statement.
The group’s Domestic Sourcing Initiative aims to connect all of the links in the plant-based supply chain in the United States. This can help lower prices to consumers, since domestic ingredients travel less of a distance than imported ones. It also could create more jobs and opportunities for farmers, which might inspire them to grow crops for the plant-based food industry.
PBFI also would lobby for plant-based food in policy efforts, including the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and upcoming Farm Bill. The group could encourage lawmakers to create policies that promote plant-based food, like agricultural subsidies for growing the primary ingredients, or that motivate consumers to eat the products because of their recognized nutritional value.
Just how sustainable the end products are could be determined by general life cycle assessments. These not only could help promote plant-based products to environmentally minded consumers, but also to retailers and foodservice businesses trying to deliver on sustainability pledges. And if plant-based products are available in general foodservice locations like cafeterias, consumers will become more familiar with them — and may be more likely to buy them at the grocery store.
While a group like PBFI could help promote plant-based food, it might take some time to get off the ground since it has no dedicated staff to focus solely on its business and policy initiatives. However, the new group is getting off to a big start. PBFI will work globally with the International Plant Based Foods Working Group, and will be hosting an in-person summit this week with similar plant-based policy groups from Canada, Europe, the U.K., India, Mexico and China.