The UK’s supermarket sandwich sector is “still too meaty” but there has been a significant jump in the use of alternative proteins as fillers, according to a survey.
The use of alternative proteins as sandwich fillers has increased by 620% since 2019, a survey of 420 sandwiches from 14 retailers and food service outlets by the Eating Better sustainable food alliance found.
However, many major supermarkets have reduced or dropped their plant-based sandwich offerings, while others are charging more for climate-friendly fillings.
Eating Better said Tesco’s vegan sandwich range had shrunk by 28% since 2019, while Morrisons and Asda have entirely removed their plant-based sandwich options.
Vegan sandwiches also tended to be more expensive, costing 15% more at Sainsbury’s than its meat offer, the survey found.
On average, plant-based options are the most expensive sandwich type, making the most sustainable option less accessible, and particularly so in a cost-of-living crisis, Eating Better said.
A poll by the organisation found 95% of people eat sandwiches for lunch and 60% are willing to eat less meat, with cost and health the main drivers.
This year’s survey found that 84% of sandwiches contained meat, fish or cheese – a drop of 1% on the last study three years ago.
Meat was the main ingredient in 59% of sandwiches. Of these, 38% contained red or processed meat and 28% contained chicken.
Eating Better executive director Simon Billing said: “Three years on from our last sandwich survey, and with yet more evidence from climate scientists on the need to reduce our meat consumption, it’s deeply disappointing that the sandwich aisle is still too meaty and that plant-based is too pricey.
“Companies make commitments to tackle climate change and promote healthy eating, but our survey shows they’re still not doing enough to support affordable, sustainable diets.
“And even though there’s been a big leap in alternative protein fillings, it’s been at the expense of dropping veggie sandwiches. Our poll shows they’re still a popular choice.
“If we’re to stand any chance of tackling the climate, nature and health crisis we need to be eating a lot less meat and dairy and a lot more affordable and nutritious plant-based foods.”
Anna Taylor, executive director at Food Foundation, said: “Eating Better’s sandwich survey highlights the need for reformulation of convenience foods to contain less meat and more veg to improve outcomes for our health and the environment.
“The lack of affordability of plant-based options is a serious barrier to people transitioning to healthy and more sustainable diets. If people are going to reduce their meat consumption, alternative options need to be the most convenient and affordable for everyone.”
British Dietetic Association director of trade union and public affairs, Annette Mansell-Green, said: “We want to see retailers as partners in public health so that affordable, convenient options are available to consumers and they can achieve balance in their diets easily.
“It’s crucial that a range of options are available as we know that upping our intakes of plant-based foods is a great way to get beneficial nutrients across the day, as well as reducing our climate impact.”