Where should shops stock veggie burgers?
Later this month customers browsing Sainsbury’s chiller cabinets for something to pop on the BBQ may find themselves tempted by something new.
Right alongside the fresh meat products the supermarket will be stocking a range of Danish vegan burgers.
The supermarket boasts they even ooze “blood” – or beetroot juice at least.
Sainsbury’s, the first supermarket to sell meat and vegan side-by-side, thinks it’ll persuade meat eaters to experiment.
It will stock products by the Danish firm Naturli which aims, like a growing number of new firms, to closely emulate the meat-eating experience.
“They are so authentic as meat alternatives, that’s why we are stocking them there,” a Sainsbury’s spokesman said.
But not everyone is convinced by Sainsbury’s strategy.
In contrast to Sainsbury’s plan to integrate vegan into its meat cabinets, Waitrose has just launched dedicated separate sections in 130 of its stores.
“We’ve done it to make it easier to shop with us and to find vegan products conveniently,” said Chloe Graves, who runs the vegan and vegetarian range at Waitrose.
“The positive customer feedback on social media is they’re really grateful they haven’t got to spend their time reading ingredients,” she says.
And while once labelling a cabinet vegan might have signified healthy but not tasty, Ms Graves thinks the new range of vegan products is putting that notion to rest.
Waitrose says its first week of sales data has shown a “very high percentage increase” of sales of vegan products that had already grown 30% year-on-year.
Ms Graves says the grocer will continue to monitor sales, but she can’t imagine switching to put vegan burgers in the meat aisle. A lot of customers would find that distasteful, she thinks.
“Some vegans just don’t want the thought of eating meat,” she says.
Iceland and Tesco are also taking different approaches to marketing their vegan ranges.
Iceland is expanding its vegan range after the success of its meat-free No Bull burgers in the first half of the year and says all its products are clearly labelled with a “vegan” badge.
But Tesco steered clear of the vegan label altogether when it launched its new range earlier this year, opting instead to stress the description “plant-based” and counter-intuitive branding “Wicked Kitchen”.
Failing to mark the sections clearly could risk alienating customers.
On Twitter some Sainsbury’s customers, for example, responded with dismay that they’d have to pass the raw chicken and packets of bacon to get to the vegan products.
Yet the body which you might expect to have been offended by Sainsbury’s move, said in fact it was delighted.
The Vegan Society said it showed veganism was shifting from being seen as a special diet to being recognised as “an ethical lifestyle choice”.
And other Twitter users suggested it could help spread veganism.
By the Vegan Society’s latest count there are over half a million people in the UK following a vegan diet, up from 150,000 a decade ago.
On top of that many omnivores are trying to cut back on their meat consumption, dubbing themselves “flexitarians”, switching regularly between vegetarian or vegan meals and meat.
It’s a trend that supermarkets – no matter how they do it – are all trying to exploit.