A survey of 2,404 ready meals conducted by healthy eating pressure group Eating Better found 16% of ready meals in 11 of the largest supermarket chains were plant-based, up 3% compared to 2018.
Of the stores surveyed, Ocado’s range was made of 40% meat-free options – the largest of percentage of all the supermarkets.
Morrisons, Asda and Aldi had all doubled the size of their meat-free range on the last two years. Iceland took last place, with a reported 11% of their ready meals classified as meat-free.
Hunting for better options
Commenting on the results, Eating Better executive director Simon Billing said: “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.”
That hunt would be made more prevalent for families with lower incomes, with plant-based meals carrying an ‘unwelcome’ premium over other options.
Tesco, Sainsbury and Co-op plant-based ready meals were – on average – more expensive than meat, fish and vegetarian ranges, according to Eating Better.
“Supermarkets should cater for consumer demand for more plant-based options at a price point that is more affordable than the meat range,” Billing added.
Reduction of meat-based
Eating Better called for a reduction in meat-based options so that they made up no more than half the products available to consumers. This proposal aligns with the group’s ‘Better by half’ roadmap, which aims to create the right environment for people to eat better for themselves and the planet.
Eating Better’s findings and roadmap coincide with The Food Foundation’s ‘Broken Plate Report, which advised the UK Government make healthier food more affordable and limit consumers’ intake of ‘junk food’.
Anna Taylor, executive director of The Food Foundation added: “The Food Foundation's Broken Plate report 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.”