Britain needs more meat free sandwiches

Retailers could be doing more to improve plant-based lunchtime offerings, according to new report

Two vegan sandwiches side by side

Not since the 18th century, when the 4th Earl of Sandwich asked for his dinner to be served between two slices of bread, so he could eat and still play cards, has the world been so hungry for a lunchtime revolution.

That’s the conclusion of a new review of Britain’s favourite midday meal, which has found that while plant-based sandwich fillings are on the increase, retailers need to be doing more to serve up more planet-friendly offerings.

Launched today, like the filling in the middle of British Sandwich Week, research by the Eating Better alliance has lifted the lid on 620 sandwiches, to find that only 9 per cent have a meat free main ingredient. Disturbingly, 33 per cent of meat sandwiches contained meat of unknown origin, including most of those sold at EAT and all of those on offer at Subway and Boots.

According to the report, Sandwiches Unwrapped, some shops are better than others when it comes to making food that is good for the health of both people and planet. Pret A Manger and Tesco, for example, have made great gains in recent years, expanding their offerings to capitalise on the growing popularity of vegetarian and vegan meals.

That’s the good news, according to Simon Billing, Eating Better’s executive director. However, retailers need to be doing far more to cater to the growing appetite for food that doesn’t cost the planet, and to meet their commitments to the environment. “Given the urgency of our climate and biodiversity crisis, they need to double down on their efforts to support options that are better for the environment,” Billing said.

Britons bought an astonishing 4 billion ready-made sandwiches last year, so it’s clear the environmental and health impact our lunch choices could be having both here and across the world.

Anna Taylor of the Food Foundation, a member of the alliance alongside Meat Free Monday, said: “Replacing meat with veg is a critical part of our journey to eating better and living longer, but the supermarkets and manufacturers are not yet doing enough to help us make that journey.’

Read the report