Soon, plant-based food will become so common it won't be newsworthy anymore


Whether it’s scientists and food producers racing to get lab-grown meat on the shelves or big conglomerates like Unilever investing in plant-based animal product alternatives, the plant-based movement has been growing exponentially for the past couple of years.

In light of our The Future of Meat event, I talked to Pablo Moleman, Co-Founder of  The Netherlands branch of prominent international food-awareness organisation Proveg, about the present and future of the plant-based food movement.

Kinder World: I’ve noticed that in a lot of your communications at Proveg you use the term plant-based instead of vegan, is this a strategic move to ease people into the idea?

Pablo Moleman: Almost all of our communication at Proveg is context-specific, so it’s not that we never use the word vegan but it really depends on the audience. Our communication is based on five perspectives: pro-health, pro-environment, pro-animals, pro-justice, and pro-taste. So we try to find common ground with everyone to move towards a more plant-based world.

I feel like within the ending animal farming movement the main focus is often on animal ethics and the word vegan seems to represent that side of the whole advocacy, do you think solely focusing on animal ethics can be trivialising the movement and pushing people away from it?

It could, yes. At least I would say that we are losing out on the opportunity of reaching a larger audience with our message. Some people might not be ready to hear the animal ethics message but they might be open to moving towards a plant-based diet for other reasons. We should be inclusive and try to get them involved as far as they can manage.

When it comes to discussions on ending animal farming, it seems to me that individual action is at the forefront. Is advocating for personal diet change the most effective way to promote a vegan diet?

That’s definitely the points in which Proveg is trying to change what activism looks like. In the very first phase, individual diet change was all that we had despite knowing that it wasn’t really that effective because it takes up a lot of resources and it’s very difficult to scale most interventions up.

But people’s behaviours are influenced by a lot of different factors, they are very much influenced by their peers and by their choice environment. When there are limited vegan options they obviously become more resistant to change. So, by working on a more institutional and corporate level: trying to change policies and trying to change what food producers are offering, we can make the grassroots level work that is individual diet change easier. The two approaches are very complementary.

Do you see growing interest from businesses towards Proveg’s work? Because I feel like the plant-based movement has gained a lot of traction in the past couple of years.

Definitely, there is a growing interest. Even to the point that it’s sometimes hard to be sure that the impact that we’re seeing is coming from our work and it’s not something that would have happened without our involvement. That wasn’t really an issue two years ago where we could be quite sure that if we hadn’t talked to a company they probably wouldn’t have moved.

Why do you think that is? What made it click for people?

I think on the consumer side there has been steady growth for ten years but it’s only recently that businesses started to take note of it. And that’s something that the vegan movement has been working towards for many years, trying to get more media attention, more corporate attention, and more investors.

So you think the movement and the attention will keep growing?

Yes, the consumer interest will continue to grow and I’m quite sure of that for two reasons. The first is that the growth of the vegan consumer market is built into the demographic. We’re seeing a lot of interest in plant-based eating among millennials and in Generation Z, so it’s actually a waiting game.

And second, the growth is actually driven by three other trends which are health, environment and animal welfare. These are growing trends and I would be very surprised to see all three of them suddenly collapse.

I do expect that there’s going to be a reduction in media attention. It’s not a bad thing and it doesn’t mean there will be a reduction in public interest but the media side will fade. The plant-based diet will become so common that it won’t be newsworthy anymore. We’re already seeing that in industry media like trade magazines and trendwatchers.

As a finishing thought, as we’ve discussed, Proveg works on different levels of advocacy: individual diet changes and community building but also the corporate and policy levels. Is there a hierarchy of effectiveness within these when it comes to sustainable long-term interventions?

The thing I’m most certain of is that we need a shift towards more institutional work. From there, there could be some prioritisation but synergy is the most important thing. We will see the most change when we are working in all these fields at the same time because they change the choice environment and they reinforce each other. Rather than pulling on one string, we are looking at creating diet change in a much more holistic way than we did before.

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    Join us for the second of our Kinder Conversations - the Sky has a Limit.

    Following our investigation into the Future of Meat in February, we've turned our attention to the sky. We'll be talking about whether air travel can be more sustainable, and how.

    We're delighted to be hosting this event in collaboration with our friends at TQ, the Amsterdam tech hub where we're based. 

    📅 When Monday 17 June 18:30 - 20:30
    📭 Where TQ, Singel 542, Amsterdam
    🎯 Why should I fly Kinder? To hear about the latest research and technology making air travel more sustainable. To find out what you can do to reduce the impact your flights are having. To share a drink with like-minded travelers, and sample some of our vegan snacks (including beloved Professor Grunschnabel ice cream, as seen at the Future of Meat event)

    🎫 How can I get in? We’re offering two ticket levels: Economy (free) and Business Class (for the price of a donation to Cool Earth). Secure your seat now!

    More about The Sky has a Limit

    Here at Kinder, we believe that greener travel is one of the key ways in which we can tackle the climate crisis. Travelling green can mean a lot of things, but right now we’re concerned about the aviation industry.  

    If aviation were a country, it’d be a top 10 polluter - and C02 emissions from air travel are growing many times faster than any other form. We’re already in a very dangerous position, and although there are many potential solutions, we sometimes feel overwhelmed and uncertain about what to do about it.

    That’s where Kinder Conversations comes in.

    Kinder Conversations is a series of events which delve into the biggest issues facing the world. 

    At the Sky has a Limit, we’ll be bringing together representatives from research and technology, the aviation industry and the not-for-profit sector to talk about sustainable air travel. We’ll hear more about the problem, and a lot more about the solutions.

    Plus, there’ll be time to get a drink from TQ’s bar (buying a drink helps our friends from TQ support more events like this), try some vegan ice cream, and chat to fellow travellers about the steps you can take to travel greener.

    ✈️ Are you ready to #flykinder? Then secure your boarding pass here

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  • How flying cars could help solve the problem of air pollution


    I don't have a driving license and when pressed about getting one by friends tired of chauffeuring me around I usually say I will only get one if I can drive something cool, like the Batmobile or a flying car. Unfortunately, I might have to honour that promise as it seems that flying cars are finally taking off (alas, no commercial Batmobiles in sight).

    Indeed, several promising startups around the world are working to deliver the "car of the future"  over the next few years. Like the Dutch company PAL-V that showed off a limited edition of its flying car at the Geneva Auto Show in Switzerland.

    The PAL-V is a hybrid between a car and a helicopter (or more precisely, a gyrocopter), able to reach a top speed of 160 km/h on the tarmac but also get airborne in just 5 minutes, hitting airspeeds of 180 km/h over a range of up to 500 km. But since buying a PAL-V will set you back around € 350,000 I might have to pass on this one. Moreover, flying this beauty requires not just a driving license but also (understandably) a license to fly, and that's just too much for me.


    Thankfully, other companies are developing vehicles that need no driver at all. Aerospace manufacturer Bell Helicopter, for example, is working on Nexus, an air taxi capable of taking off and landing in the middle of a city (whereas the PAL-V still needs a runway, albeit short, to get airborne).

    Called VTOLs (short for Vertical Take Off and Landing), these aircraft aim to become sort of an Uber of urban air travel, bringing customers to the opposite part of the city or even to a nearby city in a matter of few minutes.

    If you're at JFK airport in New York, for example, and have a meeting in Manhattan, instead of embarking on a 1-hour, Cosmopolis-style taxi ride, you could just hail a flying car and be downtown in 5 minutes.  

    Futuristic as it may sound, concrete plans to make it come true are underway. Earlier this month, German startup Lilium successfully completed the first test of its new five-seater Lilium Jet, an electric vehicle that, according to the company, will have a range of 300 km and a top speed of 300 km/h. 

    The reason electric flight is such an exciting area of research is not just because flying taxis will allow a handful of high rollers to drastically cut on their commuting time. Electric flying cars might be really good for the environment too.

    A recent study published by Nature highlighted that, in some cases, flying cars could eventually be greener than even electric road cars, cutting emissions while reducing traffic on increasingly busy roads.

    Moreover, developments in the field of flying cars could also boost the research on electric flight at large, including long haul electric flights, sort of the Holy Grail of aviation. And, as known, the civil aviation industry needs to find effective ways to lower its carbon emissions as soon as possible. 

    However, as explained by Hugh Hunt in an article on The Conversation that we republished here on Kinder World, "gaps in necessary technology and practical uncertainties beyond the cars’ promising physics mean that they may not arrive in time to be a large-scale solution to the energy crisis and congestion." 

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  • Why the current state of aviation is one of the main threats to our planet


    Let's get this one thing straight: most people prefer flying to other modes of transport, and we seem to do it more and more often. The airline industry is booming and 4.1 billion passengers have been transported last year. Almost every figure one looks at shows the impressive increase in flights over the last two decades.

    Alexandre de Juniac, head of the International Association for Flight Transport proclaims: “In 2000, the average citizen flew just once every 43 months. In 2017, the figure was once every 22 months. Flying has never been more accessible. And this is liberating people to explore more of our planet for work, leisure, and education. Aviation is the business of freedom."  

    However, this ‘business of freedom’ runs on fossil energy carriers as planes still almost exclusively fly on kerosene. Kerosene is a fuel produced by oil refining and carbon dioxide (CO2) is the major product of burning kerosene. The 2-5% of all global CO2 emissions the aviation industry emits is caused by its fuel consumption (and choice). And unlike other fuels like diesel or gasoline, airlines don't pay taxes on kerosene in most countries — making cheap air travel possible.

    In 2018 Europe’s biggest airline Ryanair became number 9 in the list of Europe’s biggest CO2 emitters and still claims to be the ‘greenest and cleanest airline’. Andrew Murphy – the aviation manager at the European Federation for Transport and Environment — argues that Ryanair the new coal when it comes to climate pollution. Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary, on the other hand, dismisses such claims by saying the claims are ‘’complete and utter rubbish’’.

    Other airlines, like KLM who partly uses renewable jet-fuel, are acknowledging the problem but they aren't too far behind Ryanair on the list of emitters. 

    The growth of the industry is not expected to slow down. India and China are the biggest growth markets, the latter alone is building 200 new commercial airports in the next ten years. Moreover, industry forecasts suggest that emissions will rise by 700% until 2050 which amounts to more than 4% of the world’s remaining carbon budget.

    If we want to reach the goals of the Paris Agreement, every the average earthling has a quota of two tons of CO2 per annum but just a return trip between New York and Amsterdam generates three tons already.

    Compared to other modes of transport planes are the biggest CO2 emitters per travelled kilometre followed by cars, buses and finally trains which are the least polluting. The CO2 emissions, however, are only one half of the medal. The impact of flying on global warming is different than most other transport as it happens in the air high above the ground where the processes that cause or reduce global warming happen. These include CO2 and nitrogen oxide emission but also cloud formation, ozone and soot as well as methane reduction.

    The climate impact of the emitted greenhouse gases in the stratosphere are three times higher than on the ground. Flying also causes condensation trails and fog clouds in certain weather conditions. Such clouds can have a warming or a cooling effect on the climate. One way to improve the climate effect of flying would be planning better routes where warming clouds are avoided and the formation of cooling clouds is favoured — our current routes have an overall warming effect.

    So, hypothetically, some flights with clever flight-route planning might even reduce global warming. However, as we don't have time to hypothesise, we need to find and urgently implement other ways to bring down the impact of flying, like using better fuels or even better planes.

    This article was written by Eric Schuler for Kinder World. Schuler is a PhD candidate at the University of Amsterdam and works on new industrial sustainable chemistries to turn captured CO2 into useful things such as plastics or fuel. He's also a photojournalist with an interest in climate and land-use change.

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