The proof is in the pudding and for the supermarkets their foray into plant-based products has paid off. Waitrose has reported that sales of vegan and vegetarian items are up 85% compared to last year, while Tesco has seen a 25% rise in chilled vegan food sales since the start of 2018.
As a result, the supermarkets are upping the ante: Waitrose has introduced an own-label range of 25 vegan and vegetarian products, Tesco is doubling its Wicked line-up and Sainsbury’s has added its latest meat alternative offering.
So what’s new?
Ready for it
Waitrose’s new dishes present a selection of vegan and veggie meals in a variety of flavours and cuisines, as well as vegan staple ingredients.
It includes condiments like vegan mayonnaise and a cheese sauce, ingredients like vegan soya bolognese and vegetable and grain mince, and snacks like vegan spiced aubergine and jackfruit money bags (pastry filled with jackfruit, tied at the top and then deep fried).
Ready meals range from gluten-free goats’ cheese pie and vegetarian spinach pancakes to an arsenal of vegan dishes, including cauliflower and coconut pie, a sweet potato and bean stew that serves two, paella, and cottage pie with vegetables and lentils. There is also a vegan nut roast.
Vegan pizza and pasta also feature heavily, with a feast pizza incorporating antipasti and another with mushroom and kale, plus a mushroom carbonara pasta and a spinach ravioli.
Over in the vegetarian corner is a chilli paneer bowl; an aubergine, lentil and goats’ cheese bake; a root vegetable and kale casserole; a Mexican bean burger and gluten-free mushroom arancini.
Waitrose has particularly highlighted a trio of standout options, including the vegan mac and greens, made with macaroni pasta and a ‘creamy’ sauce, topped with broccoli and cavolo nero, and finished with a ciabatta and bulgur wheat crumb. Also noteworthy is the vegetarian jackfruit biryani and the Moroccan-inspired aubergine and grain bake, with sumac spiced aubergine wedges, a sweet and smoky tomato sauce and a zesty lemon couscous crumb. The sauce uses cauliflower puree to emulate a creamy texture.
“The growing appetite for meat-free dishes has been reflected throughout the year with rising sales of vegan and vegetarian products, as well as the introduction of exciting and delicious new products to the foodie market,” said Chloe Graves, Waitrose’s chilled vegetarian and vegan buyer.“The innovative dishes include complete meals for a quick and easy dinner, as well as staple side dishes, each proving that a vegan or veggie meal doesn’t have to compromise on flavour.”
Even more Wicked
Food Spark noted last week that Tesco’s head of plant-based innovation, Derek Sarno, had been dropping some pretty big hints on Instagram about NPD, and this week a few of those products appeared on shelves. This included a red velvet brownie and pineapple dream cake – the Wicked Kitchen range’s first move into desserts and baked goods.
A further 26 vegan goodies will appear in aisles between now and December. Expect cakes, pies, a hipster salad, pesto lasagne, chilled desserts and sausage rolls.
These additions will take the Wicked line to 44 products, giving Britain’s largest retailer a solid range of meat-free products, bolstered by Vivera’s plant-based steak and Oumph’s soy-based meat alternatives and pizzas.
Tesco product development director Kate Ewart said: “We know from our own data that flexitarianism is on the rise and many more customers are dabbling in cutting out meat for a day or so during their weekly diet. With the new range we’re now hoping to attract an even wider audience, including customers looking for on-the-go delicious snacks such as a plant-based sausage roll, pie or pasty, as well as dessert lovers.”
Competing on protein and price
Not to be left behind, Sainsbury’s has also been ramping up its ranges, with the latest addition coming from The Meatless Farm Co. The supermarket is listing the brand’s pea-based mince and burger patties, which will join Vivera’s veggie quarter pounder as well as meat alternatives and bakery goods from The Fry Family Food Co.
The Meatless Farm Co’s two meat alternatives are wheat-free and gluten-free and are manufactured in Nottingham. They are the brand’s first products to hit the market since the company was formed in 2015.
The range was developed based on research that indicated women and under-25s were driving demand in the meat-free category.
According to The Meatless Farm Co, its offerings can compete with meat on protein and price. Its mince, for example, comes in at 5p more per 100g than Sainsbury’s 5% fat beef mince.
"We have spent the past two years developing a product that is delicious and unique in its category," said Morten Toft Bech, founder of The Meatless Farm Co. "We are entering the market at a time when demand is growing and meat-free alternatives are becoming increasingly mainstream. We champion texture and taste, offering an everyday solution for the UK's 22 million flexitarians wanting to still enjoy family favourite dishes but just eat a little less meat, alongside catering for vegetarians and vegans who are looking for tasty alternatives.”