Retailers are important in helping people make healthy and sustainable food choices’

Eleven of the largest supermarkets in the UK are stocking up more plant-based ready meals, says new study.

The Eating Better report following a survey of  2,404 ready meals has found that the number of plant-based ready meals on the market has risen to 16 percent from a mere 3 percent two years ago. In addition, almost 25 percent of ready meals are now suitable for vegetarians.

According to the group, the survey shows ‘how well supermarkets are supporting healthier and more sustainable eating patterns by offering more vegetarian and plant-based options’ since in the UK 88% of adults eat ready meals or ready-to-cook foods.

Vegan friendly supermarkets

Using data collected through in-store fieldwork and foodDB- a comprehensive, real-time database of food and drink products available online in the UK, the group found that Ocado was the most balanced with 40 percent of the products in its range being meat-free.

Morrisons, Tesco and ASDA and Waitrose had 25 percent of their ready meals’ vegetarian or vegan while Lidl and Iceland lagged behind with an average 20 percent offering of vegan options.

Study shows 16% of supermarket ready meals in UK are now plant-based
Image: Eating Better

The trend aligns with Kantar’s findings, which showed that ready meals are the fastest-growing area in the meat-free market. According to its report, last year, the vegan ready meal market rose 25% to £78.8m, an increase of 20% from 2018.

The rising market has also prompted supermarkets to release their own brand plant-based products ranges. Following Tesco debuting its Wicked Kitchen range a couple of years ago, M&S, Waitrose, Asda, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and Aldi have all launched their own brand ranges of innovative vegetarian and plant-based ready meals.

Study shows 16% of supermarket ready meals in UK are now plant-based
Image: Eating Better

‘Not enough’

While the growth in the vegan ready meal market is appreciable, the Eating Better report highlighted that 84% of meals sold in the supermarkets still contain meat, fish and cheese.

Study shows 16% of supermarket ready meals in UK are now plant-based
Image: Eating Better

Simon Billing, Eating Better’s executive director said: “While there are now some exciting options from retailers, you’re still going to have to hunt around to find plant-based options.”

Furthermore, the meat-meals are usually cheaper than meatless options. According to the report, plant-based meal options at Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Co-Op and Iceland are most expensive. This price disparity dissuades more people from opting for veggie meals.

“Supermarkets should cater for consumer demand for more plant-based options at a price point that is more affordable than the meat range,” Billing opined.

‘Shift to healthier and sustainable food choices’

Apart from asking for more competitive pricing, the 60 organisation alliance called on supermarkets to reduce their meat-based options to no more than 50% of the range as “retailers are important in helping people make healthy and sustainable food choices including moves to less and better meat and dairy and supporting people to eat more vegetables, fruit, beans, pulses and wholegrains.”

Anna Taylor, executive director of The Food Foundation added: “The Food Foundation’s Broken Plate report illustrates much more action is required (and quickly) to transform our food system to deliver health, sustainability, and equity. Our typical diets are currently not delivering on any of these outcomes and the choice provided by food retailers is a big part of that picture.”

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Study shows 16% of supermarket ready meals in the UK are now plant-based

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