Foodservice out-performing supermarkets on plant-based sarnies

Food chains and grocers are pulling back their plant-based sandwich ranges, with others adding price premiums to ‘climate-friendly’ fillings, according to research by Eating Better.

Together with the University of Oxford, the group assessed 430 sandwiches in 14 different supermarket and foodservice outlets in February. They found 84% contained meat, fish or cheese – a slight change on 2019 when it was 83%. More than a third (38%) had red or processed meat as a filling, and only 12% of the sandwiches were plant-based.

Across the foodservice companies specifically – Pret A Manger, Costa, Caffè Nero, Greggs and Subway – 34% of the sandwiches were plant-based or vegetarian, compared to 27% among the supermarkets surveyed.

Pret A Manger “led the field” with just 42% of its range featuring meat, but its vegan and vegetarian offer shrank by 19% and its plant-based options were 9% more expensive than the meat options. At Costa the price of plant-based options has fallen, and 48% of the range was meat-based.

Greggs, meanwhile, has made its plant-based sandwiches 21% cheaper but its range remains 61% meat-based. Subway was criticised becasue 74% of its range had meat, but the chain has increased the number of plant-based options available to its customers.

Among the supermarkets, Tesco’s vegan and vegetarian options had shrunk by 25% compared to the same survey in 2019, but the prices were similar to meat. Sainsbury’s offered more plant-based options but they were 15% more expensive.

The use of alternative protein as a sandwich filling has shot up since 2019, making up 25% of meat-free options. However, this has been at the expense of vegetarian options.

“Companies make commitments to tackle climate change and promote healthy eating, but our survey shows they’re still not doing enough to support affordable, sustainable diets,” said Eating Better executive director Simon Billing.

He called on all foodservice and retail businesses to reduce the meat options in their sandwich ranges to 50% or less, and reduce the cheese content by replacing it with more pulses and vegetables. The meat-free options must also be priced competitively against the meat ones, Billing added.

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