My name is Isabel Boerdam. I am founder of The Green Food Lab, a food consultancy and communications agency specialized in the area of green food. We call ourselves experts in telling, but also selling, the green food story. We do this for many clients who embrace the healthier, sustainable, greener lifestyle.
You might know us from a major campaign the National Week Without Meat and Dairy. That is our own nonprofit campaign that we launch every year. Besides that, we are also known from our food platform “De Hippe Vegtariër” (The Trendy Vegetarian) and our cookbooks, the latest “Vega Bijbel” and the “Vega Atlas”. So, we are really the plant-based experts of the Netherlands.
Happy to meet you!
1. What are the main challenges in the food system change?
Well, the main challenge in the food system to me is obviously climate change. Thanks to vows of Paris, we have a serious goal of CO2 reduction in the Netherlands. In my opinion, we are not getting there fast enough. There is one subject really not getting the spotlight enough and that is a fact that in this whole CO2 reduction process, we can make a large change by choosing what we stick on our forks every night. Eating less meat, consuming less dairy, is one of the major things we can do for the climate and most importantly, one of the easiest things.
I think in 25 years we will be eating more locally sourced. We will be eating more plantbased, like the health organization is telling us to take out 60% of our protein intake from plant based proteins. Currently that is only 40%. So I’m very sure that this shift is going to happen in the next 25 years. But I think it will be more. I think we might be ending up eating only 25% animal based proteins, more local, more vegetables, more legumes. I really think in terms of green food, we are still only at the beginning and there is a lot to come.
It is key to use your fork to vote for a better tomorrow. So what Green Food Lab always says is “Don’t wait for a better world. It’s up to you. You may even find a solution at the end of your fork.”. And that is really what I believe. I believe that folk should eat less meat, less dairy, and should enjoy the opportunities, the versatility and the colorfulness of vegetables, legumes and all interesting plantbased protein alternatives. That is the easiest, quickest, tastiest thing we can do for a better tomorrow ourselves. And that is what we promote at Green Food Lab every day to make more plantbased the new normal.
I believe, especially in this more plantbased scene, it is really essential to stand out of the crowd and position your products very well. For this positioning, brands and design are key. The products who stand out by using color or graphics or who have cheeky text on the packaging, but not just cheeky with a winky eye, but also cheeky with a message. For example Oatly. Those products really tell you something in the supermarket when taking it into your hands. The products are telling you a story or telling you why to buy them, how to buy them, how to use them. I think especially in this plant based alternative scene, it’s very important that the product is communicating to the consumer and is standing out. That is really key.
It is impossible for me to name one role model. I think in this plantbased transition, we have many heroes and role models. You really need the mainstream players, like Albert Heijn, who moves their millions of consumers little steps in the right direction by boosting your plantbased category and paying honest attention to the topic. At the other hand, you need the start ups, the scale ups, the bold players who help to make a new normal. Oatly is a great example of this transition. But also a Violife, the cheese brand, the meat replacement which is made from micro protein. A very unique source of protein. So every player has its own role and we embrace them all.
I would definitely like to discuss the topic over dinner with our Prime Minister, Mark Rutte. I am so surprised of how we from Green Food Lab with the National Week Without Meat (Nationale week zonder vlees) really make a difference. We can prove that we make long term impact. We can prove that one in five Dutch citizens is participating in a campaign and 63% of the Dutch citizens know the campaign. So, we can show that you can make a change on this topic. And therefore I don’t understand why the government isn’t doing more. I would like to discuss that with Mark and also inspire him that if we can do it, what they can do. So I hope to inspire and activate him to help us.
I am not a sustainable packaging expert, but of course packaging developed from seaweed is a trendy topic in my scene. I think these are amazing innovations, especially knowing that seaweed is an endless source of plant that will keep on growing forever and ever thanks to the efforts of the sea. So, I think that is a great innovation and I’m sure there is way much more to come. But I think it’s really important that we educate consumers on recycling and that we make recycling a more positive, active, modern movement. Besides packaging innovations, better communications on recycling is key.
I think an open mind and vulnerability is key for people and companies to move along this transition. What I see a lot is that companies are very likely to go for mass communications, very much focused on sending, while I believe (in communications, in marketing, but also in packaging) we should find a dialogue. A dialogue with the consumers because they have a lot of questions, they have a lot of uncertainty, and companies and consumers should go hand in hand while growing in this transition. I think companies should be more active in finding this dialogue, inviting consumers and engaging them instead of sending their message.
With Green Food Lab, we contribute by our own initiative towards consumers. Like our National Week Without Meat and Dairy, Our food blog, “de Hippe Vegetarier“, Our cookbooks the “Vega Bijbel” and the recent published “Vega Atlas”. But for 80%, we contribute by helping food companies to tell and sell their green food story and by making sure they are seen, embraced and loved by consumers to ensure more plant based will become the new normal in the Netherlands.
My biggest ambition is that more plantbased will become the new normal in the Netherlands. And also I believe that the National Week Whitout Meat is a role model campaign in changing behaviour in the long run. So therefore I hope that we will be able to translate the National Week Without Meat to other European countries one day, to inspire them with everything we have learned in the Netherlands and also ensure a long term behavioural change towards the good in all of Europe. So, a lot of dreams left. Thank you for the interview.
Founder Green Food Lab | Week Zonder Vlees | De Hippe Vegetariër | Vegabijbel