September 23, 2020

Ready meals survey shows plant-based’s progress, but not in all supermarkets

A survey of 2404 ready meals published today (Tuesday 8th September) by Eating Better shows that many supermarket’s plant-based options have come a long way. 16% of ready meals on the shelves at the 11 largest supermarkets are now plant-based, a big increase on the figure of 3% in 2018. But, more than four out of five ready meals still include meat, fish or cheese.

The survey shows that more plant-based meals have been making their way to supermarket shelves. Ocado’s range shows the most balance, with meat free options making up 40% of ready meals. Morrisons, Asda and Aldi doubled the size of their meat free range in the last two years. 

However, plant-based meals can come at an unwelcome premium over other options. Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Co-op plant-based ready meals are on average more expensive than meat, fish and vegetarian ranges.

Despite Iceland’s sustainability commitments, they are still lagging behind with just 11% of their range being meat free. 

Simon Billing, Executive Director of Eating Better, says: “Like it or not, ready meals are a mainstay of British eating. While there are now some exciting options from retailers, you’re still going to have to hunt around to find plant-based options. Supermarkets should cater for consumer demand for more plant-based options at a price point that is more affordable than the meat range.”

Anna Taylor OBE, Executive Director of The Food Foundation, says: “The Food Foundation’s Broken Platereport illustrates much more action is required (and quickly) to transform our food system to deliver health, sustainability, and equity. Our typical diets are currently not delivering on any of these outcomes and the choice provided by food retailers is a big part of that picture.”

Ready meals aren’t just a convenience option, they have become essential in many households where cooking fresh food is difficult. Research has shown that there are millions of people living without the basic appliances needed to cook a meal from scratch.

Eating Better wants to see retailers reducing meat-based options so that they make up no more than 50% of the range. This is in line with Better by Half: a roadmap to less and better meat and dairy, which sets out five actions for retailers to take.