The UK’s biggest grocery chain Tesco is targeting a sales surge for plant-based burgers, sausages, and quiches

Meat-free steak made with mycoprotein iStock/Getty Images
  • Tesco wants to sell four times as many plant-based meat alternatives in 2025 as it did in 2018, the British grocery giant said on Tuesday.
  • It will expand its range of meatless sausages, burgers, and pies over that period, it said.
  • Sales of plant-based foods in the UK grew 40% between 2014 and 2019, analyst firm Mintel estimated.
  • Only 1% of Brits are vegan, Mintel said in January. The rise in demand has instead come mainly from ‘flexitarian’ diets.
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The UK’s biggest grocery chain Tesco plans to turn a growing interest in ‘flexitarian’ diets into a sales surge for plant-based sausages, burgers, and pies, it said on Tuesday.

It has set a target of selling four times as many meat-alternative products in 2025 as it did in 2018, it said.

This makes it the first UK retailer to set a sales target for plant-based meat alternatives, it said.

Tesco wants to increase sales by 300% by 2025, compared to 2018 levels. It did not say how many plant-based products it currently sells.

The target is part of a sustainability program it is undertaking with the World Wildlife Federation (WWF) to halve the environmental impact of supermarket food. Meat and dairy use around 70% of agricultural land and emit 14.5% of greenhouse gases globally, Tesco said.

The supermarket will increase the range of meat alternatives on sale across its stores. It will sell more plant-based alternatives to ready meals, breaded meat, sausages, burgers, pies, and quiches, it said.

The supermarket giant has also committed to publishing the sales of plant-based proteins as a percentage of overall protein sales.

Tesco owns two plant-based own-brand ranges. In January 2018, it launched Wicked Kitchen, which sells vegan ready meals, sandwiches, salads, pizzas, and desserts. By December 2019 it was a £26 million ($US33.4 million) brand, according to Tesco, and it sold 10 millions units within the first two years. In September 2019, Tesco launched a more affordable plant-based range, Plant Chef.

Its sales of plant-based foods have risen rapidly. During this year’s Veganuary, when people pledge to eat only vegan food for the month of January, demand for plant-based wraps and sandwiches at the supermarket soared by nearly 75% compared to the previous January.

Sales of Hellman’s Vegan Mayo at Tesco grew nearly 400% in the year to January 2020.

UK plant-based boom despite only 1% of Brits being vegan

The meat-free market in the UK is booming. Sales of plant-based foods grew 40% between 2014 and 2019 to around £816 million ($US1.05 billion) per year, according to estimates from the analyst firm Mintel. It expects this to rise to more than £1.1 billion ($US1.41 billion) by 2024.

Almost a quarter (23%) of all new UK food product launches in 2019 were labelled as vegan, its research found.

Around 1% of Brits are vegan, Mintel said in January, adding that this hadn’t risen much in the past two years. The higher demand has instead come primarily from the rising popularity of ‘flexitarian’ diets, said Kate Vlietstra, Mintel global food and drink analyst.

“Many consumers perceive that plant-based foods are a healthier option, and this notion is the key driver behind the reduction in meat consumption in recent years,” Vlietstra said.

Tanya Steele, WWF’s CEO, said transparency is essential for food businesses looking to become more sustainable.

“Our partnership with Tesco aims to halve the environmental footprint of the average shopping basket, but we need a sector-wide step-change in transparency and accountability to achieve the scale and pace of change that is so desperately needed. We ask all food businesses to join us on this journey.”