In December 2023, the Swedish Plant-based milk brand Oatly won a legal battle against Dairy UK over the right to use some slogans with the word “milk” in marketing its products. The company registered the slogan “Post Milk Generation” in 2019, but Dairy UK, the trade association of the British dairy industry, challenged the trademark, arguing that the term could not be used “in relation to products that are not mammary secretions.” Now the UK High Court has permitted Oatly to use the slogan. 

Dairy UK had argued that, under European Court regulations from 2013, the word “milk” cannot be used for non-dairy milk, but lawyers for Oatly successfully argued that “Post Milk Generation” does not breach the regulation because it describes the likely consumer rather than the product. Justice Richard Smith rejected Dairy UK’s claims that Oatly’s use of the term could cause confusion. Instead, he ruled that Oatly’s slogan makes it clear that the products are “for consumers who no longer consume dairy milk.”

With a third of people now consuming plant-based milks in the UK, this decision will be welcomed by not just vegans but many other consumers (although had the case been lost it is unlikely that those buying alternatives to dairy products would have stopped doing so if the Oaty’s slogan could not be used anymore). In other European countries, the animal agriculture industry has been more successful in this sort of label wars. In Poland, the government recently drafted a decree that would ban “meaty” words from labels of fake meat products, something that the EU, France and Italy also tried. In the US, the situation is better as in April 2023 the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released draft recommendations on labelling milk products accepting dairy-free alternatives using the term “milk”, but only if specific information is added on the labels, a requirement dairy milk does not have to follow.

Jordi Casamitjana
“Originally from Catalonia, but resident in the UK for several decades, Jordi is a vegan zoologist and author, who has been involved in different aspects of animal protection for many years. In addition to scientific research, he has worked mostly as an undercover investigator, animal welfare consultant, and animal protection campaigner. He has been an ethical vegan since 2002, and in 2020 he secured the legal protection of all ethical vegans in Great Britain from discrimination in a landmark employment tribunal case that was discussed all over the world. He is also the author of the book, ‘Ethical Vegan: a personal and political journey to change the world’.