Keen to tap into the growing appetite for eating less meat, the sandwich and coffee chain offered members of the public the chance to vote for their preference in an online poll, and has just announced its plans.
The decision to cater specifically for meat free eaters is a reflection of changing dietary habits, according to Clive Schlee, chief executive of “Pret” since 2003.
Animal products are no longer top choice for customers, he said: the chain’s top-selling salad is now Beets, Squash and Feta, while the top-selling hot wrap is Falafel and Haloumi.
“Sales of our vegetarian sandwiches and salads have grown 12.5 per cent in the last six months – faster than our meaty products,” Schlee added. “This would have been unheard of five years ago.”
It’s great news considering the staggering findings of the Eating Better alliance’s “sandwich survey” in May. Of 620 different sandwiches sold in eight supermarkets and four high-street sandwich shops (including Pret), only 113 were suitable for vegetarians, and just 17 for vegans.
That Pret is changing its catering arrangements to woo more vegetarians and meat-reducers is testimony also to the increasing influence of MFMers and others on the debate, and the power you can exert on businesses with your wallet.
The meat free move has clearly delighted the public, with 10,000 people taking part in the online poll, which was based on one of Schlee’s blog posts, in which he asked: “How can Pret create more delicious vegetarian food?”
Of those who took part, 44% said a veggie version of Pret should be opened, while 52% preferred the idea of a dedicated veggie fridge in every store. Just 4% believed the chain is fine as it is.
The company has come a long way since 2001-8, when McDonald’s owned a majority share and critics of the fast-food giant refused to cross its threshold.
On his blog, Schlee cited several good reasons to cut back on meat and animal products, including, on an individual level, helping reduce carbon emissions and global warming.
He hoped the move would act “as a beacon for more innovation at Pret for the future, which offers greater choice. It would encourage Pret to create tastier vegetarian food and tempt customers who are inclined to try new alternatives.”