Supermarkets push plant-based ready meal ranges – but not enough

The proportion of plant-based ready meals available in supermarkets has increased from 3% to 16% in the past two years.

A survey of 2,404 meals by Eating Better also showed that 24% were either vegan or vegetarian. The vegetarian options remain heavily reliant on cheese, which is an ingredient in 70% of the meals.

Eating Better is calling for at least 50% of ready meal ranges to be vegan. Currently, 68% of the meals are meat-based.

Ocado’s range is currently the most balanced, with 40% of the range meat-free. Meanwhile, Morrisons, Asda and Aldi have doubled the size of their meat-free ranges since 2018.

Iceland, despite its various sustainability commitments, was the laggard among the 11 supermarkets surveyed – just 11% of its ready meals are meat-free. At Iceland, Coop, Aldi, Lidl and Marks-and-Spencer, fewer than 5% of ready meals are plant-based.

“While there are now some exciting options from retailers, you're still going to have to hunt around to find plant-based options,” said Simon Billing, executive director at Eating Better. “Supermarkets should cater for consumer demand for more plant-based options at a price point that is more affordable than the meat range.”

Indeed, plant-based meals are on average 19% more expensive than vegetarian ones. Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Co-op plant-based ready meals are on average more expensive than meat, fish and vegetarian ranges.

The ready meal market in the UK is worth £3.9bn.

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