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Supermarkets’ plant-based sandwiches still don’t make the cut

Eating Better survey shows shops aren't tapping into growing appetite for meat free sarnies

Posted : 29 June 2022

Here’s a bit of good news to slap between two slices of bread and bite into: there is a growing appetite for plant-based sandwich fillings. The only problem is convincing supermarkets and food shops to start making more of them.

Meat is still by far the most popular filling and plant-based sarnies are still way too expensive, according to Eating Better’s Sandwiches Unwrapped 2022 survey.

Meat was the main ingredient in 59 per cent of the 430 sarnies that Eating Better sampled from 14 different shops, while 84 per cent of high street offerings contain either meat, fish or cheese. The last time it looked at the sandwich sector, in 2019, the figure was 85 per cent, however, so that’s a change for the better, even if only by a single percentage point. And back then a mere 9 per cent of sandwiches had a meat free main ingredient.

More encouraging is the rise in popularity of meat alternatives, with alternative protein sandwich fillings rocketing by an astonishing 620 per cent. Another plus point is that more than a third of sandwiches at food service outlets, the places we buy our lunches and snacks, are now meat free, and half of those are plant based. 

Sadly those fillings have come at the cost of a reduction in veggie offerings, rather than sandwich-makers cutting down on meat fillings. And at the same time as some retailers are rolling back their commitments to greener eating – Morrisons and Asda having ditched plant-based sandwiches and Tesco having slashed its offering by almost a third (28 per cent) – others are bumping up the cost: Sainsbury’s plant-based sarnies cost 15 per cent more than those with meat fillings, for example.

Does that mean there is less demand? Quite the opposite. It is in positive attitudes that the real change can be seen. Not only are nearly a quarter of respondents eating less meat than they were a year ago, but 60 per cent of people said they would be willing to cut back. That suggests, to paraphrase Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams, that if you build a meat free sandwich, people will come (to eat it).

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