The Co-op is to price match its own-brand plant-based food range against equivalent meat products to help shoppers adopt “flexitarian” diets, it has announced.
The scheme is part of the supermarket’s plan to sell fully carbon neutral own-brand food and drink by 2025, in turn part of a climate plan to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2040.
The Co-op said it is investing more than £1.7 million to reduce the cost of 29 fresh, chilled and ambient vegan products from May 5 to help consumers who saw price as a barrier to choosing a plant-based diet.
Jo Whitfield, chief executive of Co-op Food, said: “It’s an industry-wide standard that plant-based alternatives are usually priced higher than their meat and dairy counterparts. At Co-op, we believe it shouldn’t cost you more money to eat plant-based food and that this disparity is unfair to those following vegetarian, vegan and flexitarian diets.
“It’s Co-op’s ambition to make our plant-based range, GRO, even more accessible to our members and customers, helping them make decisions that collectively will have an impact on the world we all share. Emissions from our operations and our own-brand products are where we have the greatest responsibility and can make the biggest difference. This move is a step in the right direction and we encourage other retailers and brands to consider making the change too.”
Lynne Elliot, Chief Executive of the Vegetarian Society, said: “This is brilliant news from Co-op, and we support any move that makes plant-based food more accessible with fewer barriers to purchase. Eating a plant-based diet is one of the best things you can do to help reduce your carbon footprint and it’s delicious.”
The supermarket has also pledged to make its entire 200-strong home delivery fleet electric, end the use of fossil fuel heating, lower farm agricultural emissions, cut packaging and reduce impacts from soy in animal feed.
The plan sets out targets, endorsed by the Science-based Targets Initiative, to cap global temperature increases and meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, which came into force in 2016 and created a global pact of almost 200 countries to tackle climate change.
Ms Whitfield added: “This is a hugely significant year and the world will be watching as the UK Government hosts the largest climate change conference ever (COP-26).
“Just as the Government must be ambitious in delivering against its own commitments, we must all be bold and take collective action to tackle climate change.”
The Co-op’s Ethical Consumerism Report, which has tracked ethical expenditure year by year over the past two decades, suggests that sales of meat-free and dairy-free products have increased by 25% and 28% and that almost one in three people intend to eat less meat and dairy than before.
According to the report, sales of vegetarian and plant-based alternatives have doubled in a decade, up from £541 million in 2010 to more than £1 billion.