A new report by Dutch research consultancy Profundo commissioned by US environmental group Madre Brava shows that the world’s leading supermarket chains have the power to reduce the impact of animal agriculture on the environment and achieve significant climate, land, and water benefits for humans, animals, and the planet.
According to the report, if food retailers Ahold Delhaize from the Netherlands, Carrefour from France, Thailand’s CP All, Lidl from Germany, Tesco from the UK, and the world’s second-largest foodservice company Sodexo (France), achieve 50% plant-based sales by 2030, they would reduce GHG by 31.6 million tonnes per year — equivalent to removing more than 25 million cars from EU roads.
Additionally, since global beef, pork, and poultry production negatively impacts land and water use, such an initiative would free a land area comparable to Iceland and save 270,000 swimming pools of blue water, according to the report.
“Just six food retailers can have an outsized impact on the climate, nature, water, and their own bottom line by shifting to 50% plant proteins by 2030,” said Nico Muzi, Managing Director of Madre Brava.
Urging leading retailers at COP28
Madre Brava, which focuses on raising awareness about the impacts of animal agriculture on the planet, says that COP28 represents a significant opportunity to urge these retailers to commit to the protein transition and bring significant change to reducing the GHG emissions that are warming the planet.
“While some of these supermarkets have already set modest targets to increase the share of plant proteins in their overall protein sales, we need more ambition and more leaders to tackle the climate emergency. Thus, we urge leading food retailers Ahold Delhaize, Carrefour, CP All, Lidl, Sodexo, and Tesco to commit at COP 28 to achieve a protein portfolio with at least 50% plant proteins by 2030,” added Muzi.
Retailers account for a considerable share of meat sales and related profits and the associated GHG emissions and land and water footprint of animal agriculture, argues the report.
According to a McKinsey analysis of 40 of the biggest supermarkets in the world, the majority of GHG emissions produced by supermarkets come from indirect sources beyond direct control: agriculture, food processing, waste management, and transportation. To reduce these emissions in the grocery industry, dairy and meat products, which are major contributors, should be replaced with sustainable alternatives.
“One of the biggest challenges in decarbonizing grocery is the key role dairy and meat play in the Western diet, as these products account for almost half of all product-related scope 3 emissions,” states the McKinsey report.
Some of the largest food retailers in Europe already stand for the protein transition by offering more plant-based proteins. Albert Heijn and Jumbo have committed to a 60% plant-based protein shift by 2030.
Lidl Germany has also announced plans to reduce the number of animal-based products and pursue a plant-forward strategy by 2025. Global foodservice leader Sodexo has pledged to make 50% of its college campus menus plant-based by 2025 in the USA, and the Compass Group has pledged to shift 40% of their meat-based meals to plant-based alternatives by 2030 in the UK and Ireland.
In a significant move to promote the adoption of meat alternatives, last month, Lidl Germany announced a 20% drop in price for its Vemondo plant-based range to reach piece parity with similar animal products. Other supermarkets have followed: Kaufland, Aldi Süd, Penny, BILLA, and Jumbo have also announced price initiatives to reduce the costs of plant-based meat.
Focus on Europe
“The focus of such reductions should lie in high-producing and high-consuming countries to avoid the further entrenching of existing global inequalities,” states the report, which identifies the Global North, with Europe showing a higher per capita meat consumption than the global average. In addition, certain Latin American and Asian countries can be categorized as high-meat consumers.
“If Europeans would substitute meat with alternative products on two days per week, this would mean a reduction in their meat consumption by about 40%,” concludes the report.
A shift in diets is slowly taking place in Europe. Meat consumption has declined in Germany, the Netherlands, the UK, and Austria with the rise of flexitarian diets. A recent survey by Smart Protein shows that 51% of Europeans said they eat less meat, up from 46% in 2021, mainly due to health concerns.
“Plant protein production, in general, uses a tiny fraction of land compared to animal meat production, thus drastically reducing deforestation and protecting biodiversity. Moreover, plant protein production uses a lot less water, causes less water and air pollution, eliminates the risks of antibiotic resistance and zoonotic pandemics, and lowers public health burdens associated with red meat consumption,” states Madre Brava.
To read the entire report, visit Impacts of a Shift to Plant Proteins.