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A s**t sandwich? Food retailers failing consumers and the planet with their sandwich ranges

Major supermarkets' sandwich ranges do not reflect the climate, nature and health emergency, and in some cases sustainable and healthy options for Britain's favourite snack are getting worse. Eating Better's enlightening new report, Sandwiches Unwrapped, fills us in.

Browsing supermarket fridge. Credit: Teguh Sugi, Pexels

Browsing supermarket fridge. Credit: Teguh Sugi, Pexels

Sandwiches are a lunchtime staple across the country. They’re convenient, filling and affordable. This makes them a key entry point for making healthier and sustainable diets accessible. A good selection of plant-based options improves takeup, with meat eaters significantly more likely to choose vegetarian options when at least 75% of the range on offer is meat free.

In its latest report, ‘Sandwiches Unwrapped’, Eating Better assessed the price and contents of 430 sandwiches across 14 food retailers, including the major supermarkets. They found a big gap between the declarations from major food retailers on food, climate and health issues and the actions they're taking.

Key findings show:

  • 84% of sandwiches in the UK high street contain meat, fish or cheese, a drop of only 1% on Eating Better's last sandwich survey in 2019. 
  • On average, plant-based options are the most expensive sandwich type.
  • Meat-free options are healthier - more than 50% of sandwiches with high salt or high fat levels contain meat. 
  • Morrisons and Asda have removed their plant-based sandwich options entirely, whilst Tesco has reduced its meat-free sandwich offer by 28% on 2019 figures.
  • Meat is the main ingredient for 59% of the companies assessed. Of those 38% contain red or processed meat and 28% contain chicken. 
  • Alternative protein as a meat-free sandwich filling has gone up by 620% since their 2019 survey.  
  • Food service is outperforming food retail, in terms of providing more sustainable offers, with 34% of their sandwiches meat-free and half of this is plant-based.

Food is responsible for 35% of the UK’s GHG emissions, and industrialised agriculture is the leading cause of wildlife decline, antibiotic resistance and pollution. Food retailers are one of the key reasons that our diets are not changing rapidly enough to avoid climate breakdown. Retailers influence consumer choice through the range they offer, and how food is presented and priced. Retailers are also letting down consumers, who say they want to eat more sustainable diets but face barriers including cost and lack of availability of better options.

What's more, food retailers are heavily exposed to climate risk. Their supply chains are dependent on regular and stable climates, both in terms of production and logistics. Failing to take appropriate action where they can is not only a shot in the foot, but it’s a huge missed opportunity to be a leader on climate action and the food revolution.

Published 22 Jun 2022

Food for the Planet: Food for the Planet is helping local authorities, businesses and organisations take simple actions to tackle the climate and nature emergency through food.

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Sam Hayward
Campaign Officer
Food for the Planet

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