It’s no secret that industry giants have immense power in Washington, and the food industry is no exception. In 2015 there were 254 clients lobbying on the food industry—among them, the usual suspects, including PepsiCo, Coca Cola, and Monsanto.1
It’s safe to say that virtually every item you pick up from grocery store shelves likely has a trade group (or several) behind it. Lobbyists for Big Food fight hard in Washington to elevate the image and reach of products to consumers, win prime spots on supermarket shelves, and influence government organizations like the USDA to establish recommendations for how much protein, grain, or dairy Americans should be consuming.
The meat industry, in particular, has major lobbying chops (no pun intended)—groups like the National Pork Producers Council and the North American Meat Institute have long been working to keep their products front and center in the public’s mind, and on the dinner table.
Plant-Based Food Companies Get Representation
However, who represents the producers of meat alternatives—companies like Tofurky and Daiya?
Plant-based meat, dairy, and egg substitutes were once relegated to specialty stores and tiny sections at the back of supermarkets. These products were marketed to niche groups and otherwise overlooked by mainstream shoppers.
Today, the tide is turning. Growing awareness about the negative health, environmental, and animal welfare impacts of the meat, dairy, and egg industries has sparked an explosion of plant-based products that are gaining popularity every year. For example, from 2014 to 2105, sales of products incorporating plant-based proteins (i.e. proteins from peas, soybeans, lentils, and other non-animal sources) grew nearly 9% through retailers (excluding Whole Foods). This far outpaces food and beverages in general, which grew only 3.7% during the same period.2
Enter the Plant Based Foods Association, a spanking new trade group launched by attorney and food critic Michele Simon to represent and further the interests of plant-based food companies. The group currently has 23 members—among them Daiya and Follow Your Heart, which are well-known companies in plant-based food circles.
Elizabeth Kucinich, wife of former congressman Dennis Kucinich, and the former policy director at the Center for Food Safety, will represent the Plant Based Foods Association in Washington. Kucinich has been an active advocate for plant-based foods, founding the Congressional Vegetarian Staff Association—aka the “Veggie Caucus”—to push for more vegetarian options in cafeterias on the Hill, just one of many examples of her efforts to push plant-based foods into the mainstream.
In all likelihood the Plant Based Foods Association will lobby in much the same manner as their meat, dairy, and egg-producer counterparts—vying for federal subsidies, for example, to encourage the adoption of plant-based “milks” as part of school lunch programs. Ms. Kucinich told the New York Times that her goal is to “level the playing field” to make sure plant-based food producers “have a seat at the table.”
A New Era in Lobbying?
The reign of the most powerful lobbies may not be coming to an end anytime soon, but the recent establishment of the Plant Based Foods Association could well symbolize the ushering in of a new era, as groups not traditionally associated with lobbying realize the advantages and necessity of having influence in Washington.
This begs the question: Who’s standing up for the little guy—the small, mid-size, and non-mainstream businesses that deserve equal representation in Washington? The expert Washington DC Lobbyists at Lobbyit believe all groups deserve equal representation—that’s why we’ve designed affordably-priced packages with clearly-outlined deliverables that make lobbying accessible to virtually any organization—no matter the size.