To get an idea of how fond the British are becoming of meat free food, pop into your local Pret A Manger. The sandwich company has revealed that sales of its veggie options increased by double digits last year, and it is pressing ahead with plans for a dedicated meat free pop-up and even more meat free grub.
For June, the chain will be turning one of its shops in Soho, central London, into a wholly vegetarian pop-up, selling more than 40 newly developed sandwiches, baguettes, wraps, salads and protein pots, all of them meat free. The items that fly off the shelves fastest could then be destined for a Pret near you. Two special veggie and vegan options a month are already going to be sold across all outlets this summer.
The company has also launched a new campaign, Not Just for Veggies, to encourage omnivores to diversify and not always choose the option that contains meat. As Pret chief executive Clive Schlee says: [“It’s] a campaign aiming to highlight that you don’t need to be vegetarian to enjoy eating meat free foods. The idea behind it is that we should all try to lean towards eating veggie choices more often. Pret’s role is to make that choice easy and delicious.”
To give some idea of the boom in non-meat food being seen at Pret’s stores in the UK, its bestselling salad is meat free – Beetroot, Squash and Feta – as is its bestselling wrap, Salad and Falafel and Halloumi. March’s chef’s special, a vegan option, Avocado, Olive & Tomato Stonebaked Baguette, was the company’s most popular yet.
Catering for Britain’s appetite for healthier, greener food is paying dividends for the company. Pret has more than 400 outlets in the UK and 3 million people a week pass through its doors. These hungry customers, many of them looking for a healthy meat free snack, helped it realise sales of £676.2 million and a profit before tax of £84.3 million in the year to December 2015 – an increase on the previous year of 13.9 and 14.5 per cent respectively.
Meat Free Monday reported last year that Pret had been considering its vegetarian options. In light of booming sales of vegetarian food, it asked members of the public to vote on whether they wanted a meat free outlet or a dedicated veggie section in every outlet. The pop-up and menu expansion is a response to that vote, in which 52 per cent favoured the veggie section and 44 the outlet.
“People are thinking carefully about what lands in their stomach when they are eating and they are looking at vegetarian food,” said Schlee. “My theory is that we would all eat more vegetarian food if it was more readily available, more colourful and a better texture.”