‘Meat Free Lunch’ campaign starts in British Sandwich Week after plant-based options found lacking

Eating Better is encouraging all retailers to offer a better balance of sandwich choices – with more vegetables and pulses and fewer meat and dairy ingredients

Vegan sandwiches with beet hummus, raw vegetables and sprouts and falafel wraps

A snapshot survey of 535 sandwiches and wraps from eight supermarkets and four high street sandwich chains* by Eating Better has found that consumers trying to eat healthily and reduce their impact on the environment will struggle to find a choice of sandwiches that fits the bill. Only 19 out of 535 (4%) were plant based (i.e. did not contain meat, fish, cheese or eggs as main ingredients). The vast majority (77%) were meat or fish based. This is despite the growing trend of people reducing the amount of meat in their diets. 

How the companies ranked:

  • Better choice: Pret A Manger and M&S provided the most choices (5 or 6 plant-based options)
  • Limited choice: Boots and EAT (3 or 4 plant-based options)
  • Poor choice: Waitrose, Subway, Morrison, Co-Op, Tesco and Sainsbury’s (only 1 or 2 plant-based options)
  • No choice: Asda and Greggs (no plant-based options)

According to the British Sandwich Association, UK consumers spent £7.85 billion on 3.5 billion sandwiches last year. Eating Better has launched its #MeatFreeLunch campaign in British Sandwich Week, calling on companies to provide a better balance within their sandwich, wrap and flatbread range. Such a move would be in line with new Government advice on eating healthily and sustainably which advises reducing consumption of animal products (particularly red and processed meat and dairy) and adding more pulses and vegetables to our diets.

The survey also identified companies that are improving their range. Pret A Manger is increasing its vegetarian and plant-based offering as part of its ‘Not just for veggies’ range currently being promoted across its stores, including trialling over 40 newly developed products in an all vegetarian pop-up shop in June. Tesco plans to launch seven new veggie sandwiches (including three plant based) in June. EAT says it will be introducing new vegetarian and vegan products to menus over the coming months. And M&S says it has identified flexitarianism as an important customer trend and is looking to better cater for this. Waitrose welcomes the campaign as an excellent way of getting people to think more about diversifying their protein consumption.

“It’s great news that some companies are responding to the growth in the flexitarian eating market and have plans to expand their ranges,” said Sue Dibb of Eating Better. “But, on the whole, customers seeking healthier sandwiches with a lower environmental impact are being let down by slim pickings. We’re calling on all food businesses to step up to the plate and offer a better range of delicious plant-based sandwiches made with vegetables and pulses.”

Eating Better: for a fair, green, healthy future – of which Meat Free Monday is a partner network – is a broad alliance, to help people move towards eating less meat and more food that’s better for people and the planet.

Eating Better’s #MeatFreeLunch campaign is encouraging people to swap their lunchtime meat, fish, cheese or egg sandwich for a vegetable-based option, or try making their own.  Find out more and join in the conversation on Twitter at #MeatFreeLunch.

* Eating Better surveyed 535 sandwich, wrap, flatbread and baguette choices from eight retailers (Asda, Boots, Co-op, Marks & Spencer, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Waitrose) and four high street sandwich chains (Pret A Manger, EAT, Subway, Greggs) between January and April 2016.  They also invited all companies to provide details of their plant-based sandwich range, and this information was used to inform the ranking. For further details of the survey download Eating Better’s #MeatFreeLunch Briefing.