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Tesco sets 300% sales target for plant-based alternatives to meat

The Guardian logo The Guardian 28/09/2020 Rebecca Smithers Consumer affairs correspondent

Tesco is to become the first UK retailer to set a sales target for plant-based alternatives to meat as it steps up efforts to offer shoppers more sustainable options.

The UK’s largest supermarket will on Tuesday commit to boosting sales of meat alternatives by 300% within five years, by 2025. Over the past year, demand for chilled meat-free foods – the most popular line including burger, sausage and mince substitutes – has increased by almost 50%, the retailer said. As a result, it is expanding into more categories and creating larger “centrepiece” dishes for two people as well as family-sized portions.

The target is part of a wider package of sustainability measures developed with its charity partner the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) to try to halve the environmental impact of the average UK shopping basket.

Dave Lewis, who steps down as Tesco chief executive on Wednesday, said: “We know from tackling food waste that transparency and ambitious targets are the first steps towards becoming a more sustainable business.”

The trend reflects people paying closer attention to their diet during the Covid-19 lockdown and increasingly adopting “flexitarian” diets – cutting down on meat and dairy while eating more plant-based foods.

Global demand for plant-based protein – dominated by the US giants Impossible Burger and Beyond Meat – is predicted to be £4.1bn this year, from £2.9bn in 2015.

In January 2018, Tesco was the first UK retailer to launch an own-label plant-based range, Wicked Kitchen, initially showcasing 20 plant-based meals, sandwiches and salads. It will now expand meat alternatives in all its stores, across 20 different categories including ready meals, party and frozen food.

Among 11 new plant-based foods going on sale at Tesco this week are centrepiece dishes using the wheat protein favourite seitan as a meat substitute, including a beef-free joint and hunter’s chicken-free traybake. Turkey-free crowns and vegan mince pies are launching in time for Christmas.

Meanwhile, the Leeds-based meat-free brand Meatless Farm has raised £24m to support expansion plans in the UK, Europe, US and Asia as global markets emerge from lockdown. Its founder, Morten Toft Bech, said: “We are seeing strong demand for our plant-based burgers, sausages and mince and see opportunities to grow the brand rapidly as people look to eat more healthily and sustainably.”

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