In a move that goes against the grain of other supermarkets, Waitrose is introducing a dedicated vegan section, which will be signposted in its shops.
The range will feature 125 ingredients, ready meals and other meat-free products designed to make shopping easier for customers looking for vegetarian and vegan options.
Waitrose has seen sales of vegetarian food grow by 34% compared to the same time last year as plant-based eating goes more mainstream. With the new products, it will increase its total vegan and vegetarian assortment by 60%.
The UK’s retailers have been in a fierce battle for the vegan market, with a raft of launches since the new year.
So what’s with Waitrose’s new range?
Part of the expansion includes the launch of 50 new products in 125 branches, which will hit shelves on June 4.
It includes two exclusive brands: The Happy Pear – created by plant-based and whole food chef duo David and Stephen Flynn – and The Vegetarian Butcher, a Dutch company specialising in meat substitutes, made using plant-based proteins.
David and Stephen Flynn, The Happy Pear co-founders, have been working with Waitrose since 2016 on customer events as well as creating vegan recipe videos.
“We are chuffed to be entering the UK market with our products and really honoured to be working with Waitrose to expand its vegan range,” the co-founders said.
“Our great-tasting, vegan products are all made from natural ingredients and are great for all lifestyles and those wanting to eat more veg.”
The Happy Pear products are all vegan friendly and include Sundried Pesto and Basil Pesto for £3, Houmous and Beetroot Houmous for £2, Shepherdless Pie for £4.50 and a Chickpea Curry for £4.50.
Meanwhile, The Vegetarian Butcher has four offerings: a Mc Burger and Little Willies for vegetarians and Chicken Nuggets and Chick Pieces that are suitable for vegans – all of which cost £2.99.
Waitrose also has its own brand of vegetarian-friendly meals, including burgers, sweet potato stacks, buffalo cauliflower bites, sweet potato and chipotle, as well as two vegan desserts: a summer berry quinoa crumble and chocolate tortes, ranging in price from £2.50 to £4.
From pizzas to pies to pastes
Apart from the exclusive offerings, there are also some well-known names like Quorn with its vegan ham and chicken slices and Linda McCartney’s vegan meals like duck, scampi, meatballs and sausages.
Waitrose has also gone the vegan pizza route with White Rabbit, just like Tesco with its Wicked Kitchen range.
Other vegan products will include tomato and olive Provencale tart, creamy mushroom wholemeal pie, lentil and kale ragout with cranberry tart and a nut roast for two – all from organic bakery brand Clive’s.
The ethnic offering includes BOL’s Sri Lankan Lentil Sambar and Thai Coconut Curry, while Cauldron will be selling Indian Balls, Ugo has Butternut Fiorelli and Tideford has a miso paste for vegan.
British food is represented with the likes of Pieminister’s Kevin Pie, which has mushroom, tomato, red wine with baby onions and thyme.
There are also various vegan cheeses, gravies, soups and sauces that will hit shelves.
So what’s prompted the move now, considering most of the supermarkets chose to launch vegan ranges during Veganuary?
Chloe Graves, Waitrose chilled vegetarian and vegan buyer, said the supermarket’s current selection of products had been selling really well week after week, with requests for more choice coming from customers and partners.
“So we could clearly see there was an appetite to have more vegetarian and vegan options in our shops,” she said.
“Increasing our range builds on the work we did last year to increase choice for our customers in this area. We are working with some fantastic exclusive brands to ensure our shoppers have a really unique selection of food to choose from.
“With flexitarianism also on the rise, we have made sure we have dishes and ingredients for those looking to opt for a meat-free meal that was suitable for the whole family to enjoy.”