Pret to trial vegetarian fridge, CEO confirms

Horizons predicts foodservice trends for 2016

Pret A Manger won’t go as far as opening vegetarian-only shops just yet, but it will trial a “vegetarian fridge” as it seeks to keep pace with customers’ changing tastes.

CEO Clive Schlee confirmed it will go ahead with introducing a refrigeration unit that only stocks vegetarian products following feedback from social media. He also said the company would look into converting an existing store into a vegetarian-only outlet for a limited period next year

More than 10,000 people responded to a poll on Pret’s vegetarian offering, with 52% voting in favour of a special vegetarian fridge, versus 44% that would like to see an exclusively vegetarian shop. Just 4% said they were happy with Pret the way it was.

Schlee said the chain had “learned a lot” from the exercise.

“Several themes came through clearly,” he commented. “Voters against a single vegetarian shop argued that it wouldn’t help the vast majority of our customers. They warned us that it might not make commercial sense. Many people commented that isolating vegetarians did not feel right. There was a strong call to arms from vegans, a movement that is clearly growing in popularity.”

After consulting his food and marketing teams about what to do, Schlee outlined a five-point response, which proposes the following:

• Increase the number of vegetarian and vegan products in its shops
• improve labelling to call out vegetarian and vegan dishes more clearly
• Run a “call to arms” marketing campaign for veggie food next year
• Test a vegetarian fridge in one of its shops
• Explore converting an existing Pret into a vegetarian Pret for a few weeks next summer to test the water

Schlee added that consulting customers via social media was a new experience for the chain but one that he had found “very positive”.

Pret polled customers on how it could improve its vegetarian offering after noticing a shift in buying behaviour. “I regularly look at Pret’s sales mix to see which food categories are growing and which are shrinking,” said Schlee last month. “Recently, there has been a distinct shift towards vegetarian. The top-selling SuperBowl in our latest salad launch was Beets, Squash & Feta, beating chicken, salmon and crayfish alternatives. This would have been unheard of five years ago.”

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