UK retailer raises the steaks with major plan to scale up vegan and vegetarian alternatives across its stores over the next five years
Tesco is plotting a major increase in plant-based meat products in its stores over the coming years in order to capitalise on the growing trend towards vegan, vegetarian and flexitarian diets, as it today became the first UK retailer to set a sales target for meat alternatives.
The supermarket giant has committed to achieving a 300 per cent increase in sales of meat alternative products by 2025 compared to 2018, backed by a host of wider sustainability measures it has developed in partnership with environmental charity WWF.
Tesco said it would aim to both introduce new plant-based meat products and grow their availability across its stores in the coming years, offering consumers products across 20 different categories including ready meals, breaded meat alternatives, and plant-based sausages, burgers, quiches, pies and party food.
In a bid to encourage uptake from customers, the firm said it would focus on value to ensure affordability does not become a barrier to buying more environmentally-sustainable plant-based food, as well as working with suppliers and investing in innovation to develop new products.
Moreover, Tesco said that it would aim to provide a meat alternative on the same aisle as meat versions are featured in its stores in order to boost visibility and choice for customers, such as by placing both meat and non-meat sausages close to each other on store fridge shelves.
And finally, in another industry first, Tesco pledged to publish its sales of plant-based proteins as a percentage of overall protein sales every year in order to track its progress, in a move it hopes will promote greater transparency over protein sales across the food industry.
The moves form part of the supermarket giant's ambition announced in 2019 to halve the environmental impact of the average UK shopping basket, according to Tesco CEO Dave Lewis. To date, he retailer has achieved 11 per cent of its goal.
"We know from our experience in tackling food waste that transparency and setting ambitious targets are the first steps towards becoming a more sustainable business," said Lewis. "Our transparency on protein sales and our new sales target for meat alternatives gives us the platform to becoming more sustainable and will provide customers with even more choice."
"These measures are just part of the work we're doing with WWF, bringing together for the first time a host of sustainability metrics to help us halve the environmental impact of food production," he added.
It comes amid growing concern among consumers about the health and environmental impacts of meat and dairy products, with demand for such products driving deforestation South America and other areas, while livestock itself is also a major greenhouse gas emitted. At the same time, sales of vegan and vegetarian food and drink products have been surging in the UK in recent years.
Announcing the new plant-based meat targets today, Tesco and WWF said food production - particularly meat and dairy - has a "significant impact on previous habitats" such as the Amazon and Cerrado regions of Brazil, as well as being a major contributor to climate change.
The two organisations are now calling on other food businesses to increase their transparency around sustainability measures in order to drive down the impacts of food on the environment.
"Food businesses cannot have a sustainable future without transparency," said Tany Steele, CEO of WWF UK. "They need to know where they are starting from in order to know where they are going."
But while welcoming Tesco's announcement, Greenpeace's head of forests, Anna Jones, urged the company to go further still by setting targets to reduce meat sales in its stores, arguing that by continuing to purchase meat from Brazilian suppliers it was continuing to fund deforestation.
"Tesco should be honouring its 2020 zero deforestation commitment and dropping known forest destroyers from its supply chain right now, before it's too late," said Jones.
Meanwhile, further underscoring rapidly growing interest in plant-based meat alternatives from both consumers as well as investors, UK brand Meatless Farm separately today announced it has raised another £24m to support its ambitious growth plans in the UK, Europe, US and Asia.
The company, which claims to be the UK's fastest-growing meat alternatives brand, believes it can be a serious contender for leading US brands such as Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat, both of which have risen to prominence in supermarkets and restaurants in recent years.
The latest £24m fundraise comes from a mixture of existing and new private and family office investors "all of whom have a commitment to sustainable investing", the firm said. It follows another previous fundraising round which secured £13.2m to further the company's expansion.
Meatless Farm - which sells plant-based mince, sausages, and burgers to supermarkets as well as restaurant chains - said its sales have surged by 179 per cent year-on-year as a growing number of Britons have embraced plant-based alternatives to meat during lockdown.
It expects the market for plant-based food to grow even further in the coming years, citing projections of a 17 per cent expansion worldwide to reach $4.2bn in 2021.
"We are seeing strong demand for our plant-based burgers, sausages and mince across all markets and see fantastic opportunities to grow the Meatless Farm brand rapidly as people look to eat more healthily and sustainably post Covid-19," said Morten Toft Bech, founder of Meatless Farm. "Our ambition is to continue to expand our global operations organically whilst also looking to participate in M&A activities around the consolidation of smaller plant-based companies."
Catch up on all the latest news, top speakers and in-depth discussion from day one of the world's first Net Zero Festival from BusinessGreen, featuring a host of events and panels focusing on the topic of leadership
Climate Assembly UK revealed public appetite for raising ambition to reach net zero, but much can also be learnt from the process itself for future climate policy making, argues Sophie Dicker from the Grantham Research Institute at LSE
Hydrogen, liquified natural gas and technologies geared at improving the energy efficiency of ships are among Shell's proposed solutions to decarbonise its shipping business
Trump acknowledged the role of greenhouse gases in driving climate change while Biden embraced a number of specific climate measures in debate marred by interruptions and personal attacks