Survey finds UK plant-based meals cheaper, more popular than meat

30 Jul 2021

The number of plant-based ready meals is surging in the U.K., and in addition to their increasing availability, their price point per portion is now below that of meat-filled ready meals, according to new research from the Eating Better coalition.

In its March 2021 findings, which were based on 2,743 ready meals across the U.K.’s top 10 supermarkets, the report found that the number of plant-based meals available to consumers rose 92% since 2018, the first time that this study was conducted.

Survey finds UK plant-based meals cheaper, more popular than meat

While the overall number of plant-based selections increased, not all retailers cultivated an equal number of vegetarian SKUs. Waitrose actually had its number of plant-based SKUs drop from 24% to 23%. The other nine retailers surveyed all had the proportion of their plant-based offerings increase since 2018 – some by triple-digits. Aldi had one-quarter of its ready meal offerings as plant-based selections, an increase of 175%. Tesco’s plant-based selection increased 103%.

Not only was the proliferation of plant-based meals remarkable in the three years between these surveys, but the Eating Better coalition found that these newer additions to supermarket shelves were actually cheaper than their animal-based counterparts. Plant-based portions cost an average of £2.62. The equivalent meat-based product costs 3p more. Even cheaper than both these options were vegetarian meals, which rang up at £2.15 per portion.

In some cases, this price difference was intentional. The report found that U.K. retailer Co-Op priced meat-based preparations 9% more than plant-based equivalents despite meat actually costing 8% less in 2020.

Eating Better is not an agency advocating for exclusive plant-based eating. The coalition instead aims to encourage consumers to eat “less and better” meat and dairy for health, environmental, animal welfare and social justice reasons. “Less” in the case of ready meals, means that the group would like to see retailers offer no more than 50% of their ready meal SKUs as meat-based products. With 86% of U.K. residents consuming ready meals, according to recent research from Mintel, introducing more plant-based options has the potential to make a large impact on the diets of citizens.

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