Renato Pichler

CEO at Swissveg & V-Label, Switzerland

Being vegan in 1993? Not as “fun” as it is today.  “Apart from fruits and vegetables, there was hardly anything available in supermarkets. To me, personally, this was not a particular issue (I like fruits), but I couldn’t overlook how others struggled.” Renato Pichler kept noticing that for many, the step toward a vegan diet was easier when products were clearly declared in stores and available in supermarkets. “Vegan sandwiches or ready-made meals hardly existed at that time. And those that did were difficult to find. A few years later, the first meat alternatives finally appeared in mainstream chains, only hardly distinguishable from real meat.” Renato saw the need for credible, reputable, and independent declaration.

“One day, it should be easier to live vegan than to eat omnivorously.”

To solve that, he founded what we know as Swissveg today, and together with his team, he helped shape the vegan movement in Switzerland. The foundations of V-Label were built shortly after. The project grew into the best-known brand for labelling vegetarian and vegan products in Europe, and Renato coordinates it to this day – although he is stepping down from a CEO position as of 2022, and V-Label is looking for a new, international CEO. Fortunately, he is not leaving V-Label completely! In the role of owner/stakeholder, he will focus on the continued strategic development of V-Label. Among business building, activism, and publishing reports that guided the industry, Renato also co-authored a couple of books, including Paving The Way For Peace, and a summary of his knowledge about reasons for veganism Veganize your Life! “After V-Label developed very well in Switzerland, it was not clear to me at the time whether the concept would also work in other countries. Though each country had a different starting point, it did indeed work,” he recalls. 

Inspirations, go-to’s and lifehacks: 

  • Pandemic lifehack that helped you survive 2021: Walking in nature
  • A person that inspires you: Albert Einstein. He dared to think unconventional ideas and did not let himself be stopped by preconceived opinions of the majority. And Nikola Tesla: He has brought humanity a big step further without wanting to enrich himself with it. Both lived vegetarian at a time when the word was hardly known (and the word “vegan” didn’t even exist yet).
  • Last series/movie that kept you awake: “Don’t Look Up”
  • Your latest podcast obsession: I am not obsessed. 🙂
  • App you find most valuable: DeepL
  • Favorite food / favorite vegan treat: Sweet fruits

“In the first year, I had a single (albeit large) customer. Today, in Switzerland alone, we have hundreds of companies that rely on V-Label, and all major supermarket chains use the label for their products. What I had to do all by myself in 1997, we do today in a team of more than a dozen employees.” Globally, more than 40,000 products and services from more than 3,500 licence holders now carry V-Label. What is the change he’s striving to see in the food industry? “One day, it should be easier to live vegan than to eat omnivorously. Instead of declaring products with V-Label, the few exceptions that still contain animal ingredients would need declaring.”

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Renato is one of the Food Heroes for 2022. See more inspiring and world-changing stories from Food Heroes here.

Disclaimer: As a leading figure of V-Label, we are aware that some of you may call us biased to list Renato among the top 20 food heroes, but we also believe that his life’s work and accomplishments in the plant-based movement speak volumes. What we did was tell him the questions were for internal purposes only –⁠ he was not aware he was answering alongside other listees.