Under pressure

What a difference a few investors can make.

Tesco has committed to increase its sales of healthy food to 65% of total sales by 2025 following pressure from some shareholders to set targets.

Some investors have been calling for Tesco, which has 27% of the UK’s grocery market, to sell more healthy food, saying it was lagging rivals in its efforts to encourage healthy eating and combat obesity in the country. A consortium of investors, led by responsible investment NGO ShareAction, filed in February what is thought to be the first nutrition-based shareholder resolution at a FTSE 100 company.

The company aims to increase sales of healthy products as a proportion of total sales to 65%, which is an increase from the current level of 58%.

Tesco plans to change its ready meals so at least two-thirds of them contain at least one of the recommended five pieces of vegetables or fruit that people should eat each day.

And it also wants to up the sales of plant-based meat alternatives by 300% as it aims to ensure more meal options for consumers.

This comes at a time when a leaked letter from former Tesco CEO David Lewis to NGO Greenpeace emerged, revealing that the supermarket giant intends to offer a meat-free alternative for every animal product the retailer sells.

Lewis explained that Tesco would achieve this by providing plant-based proteins where a meat version is featured and vowed to “publish plant-based protein sales as a percentage of protein sales from 2021”.

Although Lewis is out of the hot seat there’s nothing to say, his successor Ken Murphy won’t act on these words, particularly considering they are in the open. He has, as noted above, announced goals of increasing plant-based meat alternative sales by 300% by 2025.

Let’s see if in just four years, we could see a plant-based meat alternative adjacent to every animal meat product on Tesco shelves.

While this news is music to every vegan/flexitarian movement, it does mean meat will come under the spotlight again. The National Farmers’ Union has asserted its position, saying consumers should be making informed diet decisions based on accurate information.

“When people buy British meat and dairy they are buying sustainable, local food, produced in areas often where it is difficult to grow other foods. The same cannot always be said for some highly processed meat alternatives.”

We can expect detailed responses to this.

Greenpeace hasn’t held back. It says meat consumption “is far beyond what our planet can cope with” and says “we need a rapid shift to an agro-ecological farming system in the UK with policies that protect farming jobs and nature, tackle food poverty and produce less but better quality meat.”

All sides have their points. It’s time for a food system that fits with our current, and future, climate.

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