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Our Ready Meals survey 2021 reveals more choice and affordability for plant-based ready meals at UK supermarkets

Reports | Published  30 June 2021

Our latest ready meals snapshot reveals that plant-based meals are the fastest growing category, up by 92% since our first survey in 2018.

Food Retail

Our latest ready meals snapshot reveals that plant-based meals are the fastest growing category, up by 92% since our first survey in 2018. In seven out of ten supermarkets, plant-based meals are cheaper than meat, making it more affordable to eat healthier and sustainably.

Who is offering more climate-friendly meals?

Our largest ever survey of 2743 ready meals across ten UK supermarkets shows there’s been progress on offering more climate-friendly options, with a 50% increase in the range of vegetarian and plant-based meals since 2018. 

Four supermarkets have greatly increased their plant-based range – Aldi by 175% and Tesco by 103%, while the Co-op and Morrisons are both up by more than 60%.

Movement on price 

This year’s analysis shows plant-based ready meals are also cheaper per portion than meat meals at seven out of ten chains, this is in line with our calls for retailers to encourage sales of plant-based ready meals by pricing them competitively against meat, fish and vegetarian options. 

Co-op stands out as a supermarket moving in the right direction with meat-based meals going from being 8% cheaper than its plant-based options last year, to the opposite this year, with meat meals 9% more expensive than plant-based. 

Simon Billing, Executive Director at Eating Better said: “Retailers influence how and what we eat and have a responsibility to help us make healthy and sustainable food choices. 

Climate-friendly food needs to be mainstream and shouldn’t cost more, so it’s good to see progress on choice and affordability.  

Now, we need the same drive on meat options, to make up no more than 50% of the ready-meals ranges at all retailers.” 

Our ‘Better by Half: a roadmap to less and better meat and dairy’ details the actions retailers need to take to accelerate the necessary reduction in meat and dairy consumption in the ready meals category, including:

How many ready meals contain meat? 

The number of meals with meat as the main ingredient has dropped by 9% since 2018, although 70% of the ready meals we surveyed contain meat. None of the retailers meet our called-for target of no more than 50% of the range being meat-based. 

Anna Taylor OBE, Executive Director at Food Foundation said: "This year’s survey from Eating Better shows some encouraging progress being made by the retailers, although there’s certainly a lot more that can be done. 

While it's good to see the price of plant-based ready meals come down, the high proportion of meals containing meat remains a cause for concern given their negative impacts on both health and the environment.”

Three retailers have made significant reductions with their meat options over the last three years – Aldi by 15%, the Co-op by 14% and Tesco by 12%. Asda, Morrisons and Sainsbury’s continue to have very meaty ranges, while Iceland has made no progress, with 85% of its range meat-based, the same figure as three years ago.  

Caroline Bovey BEM RD, Chair of the British Dietetic Association said: “It is positive to see major retailers providing consumers with greater choice and more balance.

As we outline in our One Blue Dot campaign, the UK diet as a whole needs to change if we are to meet our ambitious net zero carbon targets. That means reducing meat, moderating dairy and increasing fruit, vegetables and plant-based sources of protein.

We hope the trends identified here continue, with more ready meal options that are better for our health and that of the planet.”

Download the full report here

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