The UK is a global leader in plant-based, with the British market considered the largest for plant-based alternatives in Europe. Mintel predicts meat-free food sales to exceed £1.1bn by 2024 – a significant increase from 2014’s market value of £582m.
Supermarkets in the country have responded to this demand by developing own label plant-based lines, according to Will Owen, the energy expert at market comparison company Uswitch.
“A flexitarian diet is becoming a lot more popular among Brits as we all make small changes to help towards climate change, and supermarkets have catered to this need by expanding their vegan ranges to include everything from desserts to starters,” he observed.
According to Uswitch calculations, the move to plant-based diets could deliver considerable carbon savings. “In fact, if all meat-eating Brits opted to go vegetarian for an entire year as much as 37.9 billion kgs (37,900 tonnes) of CO2 could be saved,” Owen said.
That’s equivalent to the average energy consumption of 4,373 UK homes for a year, or 85,315,881 miles driven by an average car on the road – which is equal to driving around the world 3426 times.
In a new study, comparison and switching service Uswitch examined own-brand vegan supermarket ranges and compared them on metrics like choice, price and protein content.
Aldi takes best value for money title
The study, which took eight different supermarket vegan ranges, looked at the best value for money range by comparing it to the average cost of vegan products (£2.32), the number of choices available, nutritional information and number of dessert options to unveil the best supermarket for vegan products.
Taking 13 different vegan ranges across the eight different supermarkets, the study revealed Aldi’s Plant Menu is the 'best value for money', costing on average 38% less than the average vegan product at just £1.43.
Also topping the list as the second cheapest vegan range was Asda’s ‘Asda Vegan’ range. At an average price of £1.45 per product, the supermarket expanded its range in recent months with 22 additions for Veganuary at an affordable price.
Other supermarkets that featured in the top five on the list included Morrisons V Taste range which was 18% less expensive than the average vegan product and Tesco’s Plant Chef which cost an average of £1.94 per product (16% less than the average vegan product).
Tesco packs protein punch
With protein being a key element in a balanced diet, the study analysed which own-brand vegan ranges contained the most protein per 100g.
The product that provided the most amount of protein in its food was Tesco’s Plant Chef Meat-Free Beef Style pieces. The meat substitute had a total of 30g of protein in its product and contained 8 grams more protein than Asda’s Shawarma Chicken Style Pieces which came in third place.
Asda’s plant-based Meat-Free Mince and Co-op Gro’s Tender Mince also ranked in the top 10 in the study and both contain over 20g of protein.
What products are lowest in salt?
When looking at the nutritional value of vegan products, one major area for concern is their often high salt content. Too much salt in our diets has been linked to various health concerns, such as high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke.
As part of their vegan supermarket research, Uswitch looked into products across each of the supermarket's vegan brands to identify which ones contain the least amount of salt.
Tesco’s Mushroom Spaghetti Bolognese came out on top with 0.1g of salt per 100g serving, making it the main meal with the lowest salt content in the index.
Asda’s Good and Balanced Chilli came next on the list with 0.15g of salt per serving.
Products that contain high amounts of salt and ranked towards the bottom of the list were Tesco’s Vegeroni Pasta, containing 2.2 g of salt per 100g serving, and Marks and Spencer’s No-Chicken Kiev that contains 1.75g of salt per 100g serving.
The widest range of vegan alternatives
What supermarkets offer the largest range of vegan products?
ASDA was top of the pack when it came to delivering a broad range of vegan products. The chain has 64 items available across its own-brand ranges.
Morrisons, which launched its own-brand vegan range in 2018, has 63 vegan products available on its online grocery hub. It was the first own-brand vegan range to launch meat-free ‘pork’ pies and dairy-free mozzarella sticks in 2020.
Supermarkets that ranked towards the bottom of the list for choice were Aldi and Sainsbury’s. Despite topping the list as the cheapest supermarket brand for vegan products, Aldi doesn’t offer as much vegan variety as its competitors, with just 25 items available on their grocery site.
Who offers sweetest selection for dessert?
Supermarkets around the UK now have a large selection of vegan items. To evaluate what grocers offered the most choice, Uswitch analysed the dessert options across all of the ranges included in the study to see which ones had the broadest offering online.
Coming in first place with 11 items on their website was Morrisons V Taste range. The dessert options such as Double Chocolate Orange Cookies to Strawberry Ice Cream Cones.
Morrisons extended its vegan line-up in January 2021adding in a range of dessert options as well as new savoury products including Butternut Mac No Cheese and Thai fishcakes.
Other supermarkets that topped the list for dessert options were the Co-op and Marks and Spencer, both of whom had at least four options available on their online website. M&S also stock a bigger selection of vegan desserts in-store including Strawberry Cheesecake Wedges and Chocolate Chip Cookies, Uswitch noted.
Supermarkets that didn’t have dessert options available on their online grocery hubs were Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and Asda.
“While more choice for vegans when eating out might be great, our vegan supermarket index will be particularly helpful for those that are considering the switch to a plant-based diet at an affordable price, while also providing information on where you can get the biggest choice and range of products to suit your needs,” Owen said.