Skip to main content

Meat-filled sandwiches leave consumers hamstrung for a healthy planet-friendly lunch

Reports | Published  11 May 2015

Survey of over 600 sandwiches finds consumers trying to go meat-free at lunchtime will struggle to find a choice of sandwiches that fits the bill.

Food Retail

Eating Better’s snapshot survey of over 600 sandwiches finds consumers trying to go meat-free at lunchtime will struggle to find a choice of sandwiches that fits the bill.

Sandwiches Unwrapped

In a busy working week, how many of us will grab a quick sandwich from the supermarket or sandwich chain? According to the British Sandwich Association 75% of us do just that and racking up sales of £7.25bn buying 3.5 billion pre-packed sandwiches in a year. Recognising this, manufacturers and retailers are offering more choice and more inventive fillings to tantalise our taste buds. Or are they?

To see how well companies are helping us go meat-free at lunchtime, Eating Better undertook a snapshot survey of 620 sandwiches and wraps from eight supermarkets (Asda, Boots, Co-op, Marks & Spencer, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Waitrose) and four high street sandwich chains (Pret a Manger, EAT, Subway, Greggs). What we found was quite surprising, and we’re sharing the results in British Sandwich Week.

Our survey revealed that of the 620 sandwiches we examined, 570 - 92% - contained meat, fish or cheese. Only 17 sandwiches (less than 3%) from the twelve retailers were plant-based, meaning people looking for a healthy, environmentally-friendly sandwich have a very limited choice.

This is important because our own research shows that many people are trying to cut down on the meat they eat. Our report published last December revealed that 25% of people say they are eating less meat that a year ago, and a third are thinking of cutting down. Since we know that eating less meat and more vegetables is a healthier and more sustainable way to live – better for us and the planet – going meat-free at lunchtime is a simple way to cut down.

With farm animals being responsible for around 15% of global greenhouse gases (GHGs) (equivalent to the amount of GHGs from cars) reducing meat and other animal products (including cheese) in our diets is a simple way to eat smart for the planet – and evidence shows a predominantly plant-based diet is healthier too – cutting heart disease, obesity and cancer. 

The good news is that eating healthier sandwiches is not just better for people and the planet, it’s better for our bottom-line too.  Our survey found that on average meat-free sandwiches cost significantly less on average between 84% and 56% of the price of the meat/fish options.

Eating Better is calling on food companies to be more innovative and provide a better choice of delicious, healthy, environmentally-friendly sandwiches and wraps with vegetables and pulses to help customers go meat-free at lunchtime. Example fillings already on the shelves include falafel, hummus, Mexican three bean, Moroccan vegetables, Veggie Bombay, chickpea & sweet potato, avocado & herb, artichoke & basil. We’d also like to see fewer ‘meat feast’ type options which often contain more than one kind of meat.

"Our research shows that many people are trying to be planet and health conscious and looking to eat less meat. Going meat-free at lunchtime is a simple way to cut down. But consumers seeking healthier sandwiches with a lower environmental impact are being let down,” says Sue Dibb of Eating Better.  “We’re calling on food manufacturers and retailers to help consumers choose healthier, environmentally-friendly diets by offering a better range of delicious sandwiches made with vegetables and pulses. The good news for consumers is that it doesn’t need to cost more. We found non-meat or fish sandwiches cost less on average.”

Eating Better is encouraging people during Meat Free May to swap their lunchtime meat, fish or cheese sandwich for a vegetable-based option, or try making their own. If they have a favourite plant-based sandwich they’ve bought or made, they can share it on Twitter using the #EatingBetterChallenge hashtag tweeted to @Eating_Better.


You can download Eating Better’s Sandwiches Unwrapped Briefing here and Press Release here.

Subscribe to our newsletter — Get the latest news, research, and reports from the Eating Better Alliance delivered directly to your inbox.
We will never share your information and you can unsubscribe at anytime. Read our privacy policy here.
Read the latest updates — Stay informed with our latest news articles, in-depth reports, and insightful case studies.
Help spread the word — Please share this page on your favourite social media platforms to keep the conversation going.