After more than 20 years of outstanding professional experience in the food sector and with an academic background in Economics and Business Administration at the Freie Universität Berlin and the University of Alicante, Ferry Djamchidi (1973, Berlin), has been leading V-Label, the vegetarian and vegan label of reference in Europe, since last March. We asked him about his vision of the vegan movement and the challenges facing the sector.
What does V-Label bring to the consumer?
The V-Label gives consumers a guarantee for vegan and vegetarian products. Represented in over 50 countries, it is the most widespread quality seal for food, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and non-food worldwide. Unlike other seals, the V-Label gives the consumer the unique guarantee that the products are audited by external control bodies and income from license fees supports many vegan and animal rights NGOs across the globe.
«So far, the V-Label is the only seal that goes as far back as the supply chain to the origin and controls it with external auditors»
How many brands & products are currently using your Vegan & Vegetarian seals in the EU?
That’s a good question. At the moment, I estimate about 50,000 products, but the number is increasing every day as more and more manufacturers recognize the need for independent certification. Consumers all over Europe are paying attention to the V-label. It is the most widely known seal.
How do you ensure and audit the vegan quality and traceability of the products you certify as such?
We take a very precise approach to certification. While other seals only obtain supplier confirmations and do not verify them, we work with independent certification bodies such as SGS, as a global partner. All ingredients as well as their pre-ingredients and upstream suppliers are precisely registered. We thus go all the way to the beginning of the supply chain. In addition, audits have to be carried out. In the case of critical products, e.g. if a manufacturer has several production lines and cross-contamination cannot be excluded, additional controls become necessary. So far, the V-Label is the only seal that goes as far back as the supply chain to the origin and controls it with external auditors.
What are the main goals for V-Label in 2022?
We would like to become even better known to the consumer. In Europe, we are already the most well-known seal, but there are regions such as North and South America where consumers are not yet aware of it. Many consumers associate the seal with food, but we also certify cosmetics and non-food products, such as clothing, footwear and household products. It is also important that the customer consciously pays attention to the V-label when shopping.
«Many consumers associate the seal with food, but we also certify cosmetics and non-food products»
The future is plant-based. What role does innovation play in achieving a food system transition that’s kind with the planet, animals and ourselves?
Innovation is the driver of our development. I am explicitly not only referring to technological innovation. I understand innovation as new ideas, learning and development, which first takes place in our heads. In recent years, we have recognized the necessity that our way of doing business is harmful to our planet and its inhabitants. We are destroying our environment, the habitat of animals and poisoning our own food. Conventional agriculture damages waters, soils, climate and our health. Factory farming is unacceptable from an ethical point of view. Meat prices often do not cover the cost of production. The external costs are not included in the selling prices and harm the entire society. Our way of doing business, especially food production, needs to change. A growing number of people have realized that the way we consume is closely linked to the destruction of our planet. Innovation comes from a need for change. Innovation in green, resource efficient technologies and plant-based foods are a key driver into a new, sustainable food system and global food security.
«Innovation is the driver of our development. I understand innovation as new ideas, learning and development»
What can you tell us about the International V-Label Awards 2022? -And how do they thrive with innovation in the plant-based industry.
Everyone at V-Label is excited for the second year of the International V-Label Awards. Last year we saw an immense interest from producers and retailers, all who wanted to showcase their innovative vegan products that are better for the planet and animals. This year we hope to see even more products and companies taking interest and making the awards even bigger. Companies can apply by 1st July after which the judges will be able to cast their votes and in November we will announce the winners.
There are some European regulations, as in the EU Organic Regulation, in which is clear for everyone what is organic and what is not at a legislative & legal level. Do you expect an EU vegan & vegetarian regulation in the future?
A uniform definition of vegan and vegetarian is still pending in order to clarify Article 36, 3b of Regulation EU 1169/2011 on voluntary information about food. Since this is not one of the priorities of legislation, a legal definition is a long time coming. Will there be a legal regulation like that for organic food? I think so.
Author: Oriol Urrutia, Co-Editor.
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