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Sandwiches Unwrapped 2019

It’s British Sandwich Week and new research from Eating Better makes clear the health and environmental impact of this popular lunch time food.

Sandwiches are an iconic staple of the British diet: last year we bought an incredible 4bn ready-made sandwiches, at a cost of £8bn. 76% of consumers buy lunch to eat out of home for an everyday occasion. Our latest survey of sandwiches available on the high street shows that shifts by retailers in this category has the potential for a big health, environment and animal welfare impact.

We’ve crunched the data on 620 sandwiches available from popular lunch time retailers. We found that while some retailers, particularly Pret and Tesco, have made progress in terms of diversifying their sandwich ranges to include more plant-based options. The sheer volume of meat-based sandwiches is a big concern. 85% of sandwiches on the market still have meat, fish or cheese as their main ingredient.

Simon Billing, Executive Director of Eating Better says: ‘The good news is that some retailers are responding to consumer demand for more plant-based options. But given the urgency of our climate and biodiversity crisis they need to double down on their efforts to support options that are better for the environment.’

Anna Taylor OBE, Executive Director, Food Foundation says: ‘Sandwiches and ready meals make up a significant part of our diet. Only 14% of ready meals and 30% of sandwiches are meat and fish free. Replacing meat with veg is a critical part of our journey to eating better and living longer, but the supermarkets and manufacturers are not yet doing enough to help us make that journey.’

If you’re looking to understand where the meat comes from in your sandwich you will struggle. 33% of meat sandwiches contained meat of unknown origin. This includes all of the meat sandwiches at Boots and Subway, and the vast majority at EAT. The research found only 2 sandwiches carried any better meat certification which consumers could find helpful when making their selection.

Simon Billing, says: ‘Retailers are letting their customers down on transparency of provenance of ingredient meat in sandwiches. We would like to see this made clear across all meat sandwiches. We are also calling on all retailers to commit to higher standards of animal welfare, for fresh meat consumers have choice to go for ‘better’ options but not for sandwiches.’

Dr Nick Palmer, Head of Compassion in World Farming UK, says: ‘This survey highlights the need for faster action by retailers. Shops that offer a clear choice of plant-based and high-welfare sandwiches will find that consumers respond, just as they did for clear labelling of eggs of free-range eggs. Surely nobody can argue that it’s good for consumers to be kept in the dark and unable to make informed choices?’

To accelerate progress, we are calling on retailers to:

  • Provide more meat-free lunch options by increasing the range of delicious plant-based sandwiches.
  • Make provenance of ingredient meat clear on packets.
  • Commit to better meat and dairy by offering products that meet a certified credible standard, such as free range.

To view the full report click here.

To view the press release click here.

For further information or media enquiries related to the research, please email – comms@eating-better.org.