Why Sainsbury’s Meat Free Butchers may be a glimpse of a more plant-based future
Philip Mansbridge May 31, 2019
It’s overwhelming keeping up with the rise of meat alternatives and plant-based options hitting the market each week in the UK, but news just out that Sainsbury’s, the UK’s 2nd largest retailer by value, is launching a Meat Free Butcher is simply incredible.
The ‘butcher’ is only a pop up at this stage, for just a few days in Bethnal Green, London from June 21st – 23rd to coincide with World Meat Free Week. The idea is that it will showcase 20 plant-based products, getting consumers up close to the products, highlighting recipes and giving out cooking tips and advice.
In isolation this could be easy to dismiss – just a pop-up, just a few days, but that said it is still a significant sign of the times. I recently wrote about giant sandwich and coffee chain Pret a Manger buying rival sandwich and coffee chain EAT in order to convert their entire store estate into ‘Veggie Prets’, which would lead to there being around 90 Veggie Prets nationally, not one selling any meat at all. And where did this Veggie Pret concept start? That’s right – a temporary pop up store in London – originally planned for just a month.
What’s more, Sainsbury’s Meat Free Butcher certainly isn’t the first meat-free butcher to appear. In the Netherlands, The Vegetarian Butcher (De Vegetarische Slager), founded by a former cattle farmer in 2007 now has products available across Europe and was very recently sold to Unilever. From small meat-free acorns, mighty meat-free oaks can grow!
So, why are Sainsbury’s doing this?
Well, according to Sainsbury’s, sales of their meat-free ranges grew by 20% week-on-week following the launch of their expanded meat-free range and they’ve seen a staggering 82% increase in Sainsbury’s customers searching for ‘vegan’ online, so this is definitely a good move for them, though the topic of meat alternatives (or ‘fake meat’) is one that often comes up as an area of contention.
Many people who eat meat often ask why vegans would want to eat things that look and taste like meat. But the answer really is simple – people become plant-based, or meat reduce for a variety of reasons. Some people for the animals, some for the environment, some for health. It’s not a written rule that those following plant-based diets or meat reducing don’t want to eat the things they used to eat. In fact, it’s often quite the opposite, and alternatives like this can often pave the way for those transitioning to plant-based and help those aiming to meat reduce.
The Five Pros
After all, if you can have all the taste without the impact that has to be a good thing right?
Executive Director for ProVeg UK. Philip has extensive knowledge of plant-based food and related animal welfare issues. Philip has previously headed up leading animal welfare and conservation charities, including in the role of UK Director for at the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), and Care for the Wild International, as well as working in senior positions at Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, Guide Dogs and Cats Protection, and is a regular at animal and plant-based events up and down the country.