Sainsbury’s boss concerned over ‘salt & fat content’ in vegan foods – ‘got to be careful’

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Supermarkets are constantly changing and updating their stock to meet customer demands and desires. As fewer Britons eat meat, the retailers – including Sainsbury’s – are introducing more plant-based alternatives to their shelves. But are they healthy?

A Sainsbury’s boss has admitted there are concerns within the supermarket over selling fatty vegan food products.

The food retailer is trying to avoid replacing meat with more salts and fats, which can sometimes be difficult.

Speaking at a Cop26 event, Mark Given, Sainsbury’s Chief Marketing Officer, said: “You’ve got to be really careful of trade-offs in this space.

“We do worry about some of the salt and fat content in some of the alternatives that are out there.”

Mr Given added that the supermarket is trying to make sure the plant-based alternatives are not less healthy than meat products.

He said: “That’s something, with our suppliers, we’re working very carefully to balance, and you have to look at where some of the plant-based solutions come from around the world in terms of what that footprint is.”

All UK major supermarkets are doing their part to protect the environment and Sainsbury’s is no different.

The retailer is one of five major companies to have announced a deal with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to cut their collective impact on nature by half by 2030.

The WWF will assess the companies on different objectives, including having half their protein products come from plant-based sources.

But Mr Given said Sainsbury’s was “a very, very long way” from reaching that target.

Speaking at the same Cop26 event as Mr Given, Elisabeth Costa, of the Behavioural Insights Team, said it was “time to have a serious conversation” about putting tariffs on foods that are bad for the environment.

She said: “We should design something that has the objective of driving innovation and sustainable practices on behalf of farmers, and something that makes it easier for consumers to consume low carbon and low methane options with minimal effort.”

Last month, a document released by the unit examined the possibility of introducing taxes on red meat and dairy to “help everyone eat more sustainably”.

However, a Government spokesperson said the document was a research paper and not official policy.

They said there were “no plans whatsoever to dictate consumer behaviour in this way”.

But Sainsbury’s and other supermarkets continue to be under pressure to design healthier plant-based products.

The campaign group Action on Salt has warned that plant-based products can sometimes be twice as salty as the meat they replace, as well as being more processed.

Vegetarian and vegan burgers tend to have lower fat levels than red meat burgers but some are much fattier than fish or poultry burgers, according to a study published in the journal European Food Research and Technology earlier this year.

They also tend to have higher sugar levels and lower protein.

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