Tesco pledges to boost sales of plant-based meat alternatives by 300%

File photo dated 26/08/16 of a Tesco sign. Tesco sales have surged over the past three months, after rapidly expanding its online business amid increased demand for grocery deliveries in the face of coronavirus.
Tesco will now expand plant-based options in all its stores. Photo: PA

Tesco (TSCO.L) is pledging to boost sales of plant-based meat alternatives by 300% within five years, by 2025, as part of a raft of sustainability measures.

Tesco will be the first UK retailer to set a sales target for meat alternatives.

The UK’s largest supermarket said demand for chilled meat-free foods has risen by almost 50% over the past year. This has prompted Tesco to broaden its meat-free range into more categories and offer larger “centrepiece” dishes for two people as well as family-sized portions.

The 300% target is part of a number of sustainability measures created in collaboration with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) that aim to halve the environmental impact of the average UK shopping basket.

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The coronavirus lockdown has meant more people are paying closer attention to their diet, according to Tesco, and increasingly adopting “flexitarian” diets — eating less meat and dairy and replacing them with more plant-based foods.

The most popular meat-free products currently include burger, sausage and mince substitutes, the retailer said.

Global demand for plant-based protein — dominated by US food companies Impossible Burger and Beyond Meat (BYND) — is predicted to be £4.1bn ($5.3bn) this year, up from from £2.9bn in 2015. Beyond Meat announced plans to open its first factory in Europe, marking its first push into overseas production, in June.

Tesco was the first UK retailer to launch an own-label plant-based range, Wicked Kitchen, in January 2018. The company will now expand plant-based options in all its stores, across 20 different categories including ready meals, party food and frozen food.

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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.”

Founder of Leeds-based meat-free brand Meatless Farm 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.”

The company has raised £24m to support expansion plans in the UK, Europe, US and Asia as global markets come out of coronavirus lockdowns.