VEGA News Item

Vegalicious Pick-me-ups for Busy Veggies from Tesco. Discounts from the Times - 02/12/2008
Pick Me, a new range of prepared meals that "puts healthy food on your plate in minutes".
1. "Made with top-quality vegetables, Pick Me can help you get your five-a-day, even when you're pushed for time - and you can save money on the complete range, courtesy of Body & Soul" (which is a section of the Saturday Times).

2. The advertisements enthuse further: "choose from tempting dishes such as cheeky Chunky chilli, Shepherd's Pie (without the sheep) and nutballs with nuts (and herbs). Each one is bursting with flavor, and designed to appeal to meat-eaters and vegetarians alike. What's more, they contain no GM products and they're additive-free".

3. Pick-me products include

o Cheeky Chunky Chilli 350g
o Shepherd's Pie (without the sheep) 400g
o Nutballs with Nuts (and herbs) 350g
o Rainbow Curry 350g
o Punchy Pad Thai 350g
o Vegalicious Masala 350g
o Proper Pea and Mint Risotto 350g

4. Production of a Times voucher at a Tesco store offers the customer a discount of £1.00 when she/he buys any two Pick Me products. While we applaud the Vegalicious style we shall commission our critically-endowed label-readers and tasters to ensure that the Pick Me range would please the most demanding veggie. We hurry to commend the products to meat, dairy, and cruelty-frees seeking acceptable alternatives to cheesy and meaty pizzas, for instance; and we'll assess the packaging too (for appearance rather than nutritive value).

5. The Times offer runs until 15th December

6. It happens that the Grocer Magazine the same week offers an "Independent View" of the veggie market. "Britain's 3 million vegetarians are an important but tough group to cater for", it states, while despatching a mystery shopper to find out how well the independents are doing. "The result compares feebly with the supermarket's catering for the veggie free-from requirements. "Indies will stock veggie lines if asked" is a headline introducing a lack of inspiration and innovation.

7. "Although only an estimated 3 million people in the UK consider themselves vegetarians, so the market technically remains niche, more non-vegetarians are buying into it, encouraged by manufacturers actively marketing their products as healthy rather than vegetarian," states the mystery shopper. "The sector was generally well-served by the stores we visited this month. Our shopper was able to purchase 4 out of the 5 products on our list. None of the stores stocked a cheese suitable for vegetarians, but all of them offered a vegetarian lasagne or a macaroni cheese in some form. Although not strictly a convenience store, frozen food retailer Iceland fared best for vegetarian options, stocking 4 of the 5 products on our list. The products were all reasonably priced but staff directed our shopper to the local Sainsbury's for the cheese because it catered for more of these types of speciality foods, they claimed", reported the mystery shopper.

8. Mace, the Co-op and Woodberry News all stocked 3 of the 5 items, but S & G Convenience Store could only provide the vegetarian lasagne and macaroni cheese "The retailers told our shoppers that vegetarians weren't adequately catered for, though they stressed that if their customers asked for more vegetarian products, they would increase their product range," concludes the report limply.

9. These are the 5 products the mystery shopper(s) sought.

o Frozen or tinned macaroni cheese
o Frozen vegetarian lasagne
o Frozen vegetarian burgers
o Animal rennet-free cheese (clearly marked as suitable)
o Any non-meat pastry (eg. Ginsters cheese and onion slice)

10. None of these would qualify for inclusion in a free-from range recommended for the serious consumer entering the meat, dairy and cruelty-free veggie heaven of the portfolio of eating plans we've offered the food standards agency in celebration of this year's World Food Day last month. Our offer of these for inclusion among the recipes for students at the Vegetarian Society's cookery school was met with outright rejection and refusal to consider.

11. The Grocer makes the best of sales of the Linda McCartney range, "which haven't always matched its celebrity status, but remains a staple in the freezer cabinet of most retailers. The brand recently added 3 new variants - vegetarian mince, vegetarian meatballs, and vegetarian chicken-style pieces - to capitalise on the trend for frozen vegetarian food (up 6.5% year-on-year) and the positive health associations these types of food enjoy".

12. The Grocer's blinkered view overlooks any number of opportunities for veggies in the chummiest of independent and health-food stores, with our without chillers, and with beans and TVP in several presentations. Many stock plant-milks and other "dairy-products," UHT and chilled Indian and Chinese shops are good for veggie foragers and the snacks and sandwiches in coffee shops and stalls, rail and bus stations, and café's are worth investigation. However, it remains true that veggies will find much more choice with tofu, houmous, and beans - the pulses of the free-from market in the supermarkets but still with a long way to go to severely unsettle the cowboys and patrons of the fleshpots.

13. The Grocer's shopper hardly got out of the niche and only stumbled into a rut.  

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© VEGA - 2008