The trial, which will run at its Watford location for six months, is a ‘test and learn’ pilot to help the company ‘understand what resonates’ with consumers.
“The demand for vegan products is on the rise and we have seen a surge in people seeking out ways to easily enjoy a plant-based lifestyle,” Preyash Thakrar, Asda’s chief strategy officer.
“We recognised the importance of helping our customers with their Veganuary journey. Veelicious will be a ‘test and learn’ trial to help us understand what resonates with customers to enable us to enhance our plant-based proposition.”
The move comes after Asda closed its meat and fish counters last year, replacing them with ready-to-eat ‘Food for Now’ counters.
Expanding vegan options
Asda is launching Veelicious in partnership with London-based vegan concept creator Kbox Global.
“Our partnership with Asda to launch the UK’s first vegan butcher is an exciting joint venture that recognises growing demand for plant-based brands, from meat eaters and vegans alike,” Salima Vellani, founder and CEO of Kbox Global, said.
“Veganism is now a mainstream, healthy and environmentally sustainable way for anyone to eat. We are pleased to be working with one of the country’s leading supermarkets to give consumers more of what they are asking for.”
The Veelicious counter will offer a number of plant-based meats, with prices starting at 75 pence. The range includes ‘facon’ plant-based bacon, bean burgers, vegan lamb, and meat-free meatballs. A selection of vegan cheese, ready-to-eat meal kits and cooking sources will also be stocked.
The supermarket chain has been expanding its plant-based range to meet the growing demand for vegan food products. In addition to the one-store vegan butcher trial, this ‘Veganuary’ Asda has added 22 new meat-free alternatives to its Plant Based range. The line is available in-store and online throughout the UK.
This builds on Asda’s previous activity in the plant-based space. Over Christmas, the UK’s second-largest supermarket launched almost 50 new festive vegan products, including party food and vegan roasting joints. Earlier in the year, the retailer was the first supermarket to launch a shelf-stable vegan aisle.
‘They won’t be the last’
According to Acacia Smith, policy manager at the Good Food Institute Europe, Asda’s pilot reflects the mainstreaming of demand for vegan products. "Asda might be the first supermarket to launch a plant-based butcher counter, but it's unlikely to be the last,” she predicted.
A recent research report from Edison predicts that plant-based ‘meat’ will make up 18% of the total meat market by 2030. Kearney estimates that revenue for the global plant-based meat market is projected to grow from US$46bn to US$120bn between 2018 and 2025, representing a 15% CAGR.
But while Smith describes the rise of the plant-based sector – and increasing commercial interest and investment behind it – as ‘exciting’ she insisted that bolder action from regulators will be required to meet long-term sustainability goals.
"While it's exciting to see supermarkets investing in these healthier, more sustainable meat options, the private sector can't fix our food system alone. To meet its climate ambitions and protect public health, the government must invest in research and development to advance plant-based meat – just as it has done with renewable energy."
The UK government aims to move the country to net-zero emissions by 2050, in line with the Paris climate change agreement. Last month, Prime Minister Boris Johnson outlined his ambition to reduce the UK’s emissions by at least 68% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels. However, the strategy attracted widespread criticism from campaigners who suggested the food sector needed to feature more centrally in emissions reduction plans.