M&S drops cauliflower ‘steak’ amid ridicule from customers

Marks & Spencer has withdrawn its “cauliflower steak” product from sale after it was ridiculed by consumers for its “excessive” plastic packaging and inflated price.

The sliced cauliflower, which comes in plastic packaging with a separate sachet of lemon and herb drizzle, was being sold for twice the price of a whole, single cauliflower at the supermarket chain.

The product had come under fire on social media, with critics describing it as “wasteful” and “ridiculous” and complaining about the volume of packaging used as well as the inflated price. Whole, untrimmed cauliflowers are sold at M&S for £1 – typically for even less at other supermarkets – while the single-slice “steak” version cost shoppers £2.

Confirming its decision to stop selling the item, a spokesperson for M&S said: “Once we’ve sold the stock that is currently in stores, we won’t be ordering any more of this product. We work hard to create quick and convenient meals for customers; however, on this occasion we didn’t get it right. We have launched many other vegetarian dishes that are already proving popular with customers.”

The product was part of the store’s new “Veggie” range, and was first spotted on Twitter by Rachel Clarke @rachclarke27, who triggered a lengthy thread after tweeting:

Another (Kathryn @katie2779) said: “People who buy this must have more money than sense! What a wasteful item. The amount of plastic and processing involved in this is ridiculous. Like you say, buy a cauliflower, wash it and cut (and use all of it).”

Rival Sainsbury’s also sells a similar product – a pack of two “cauliflower steaks in a herb and spice marinade” for £1.80, which is still on its shelves.

Trewin Restorick, chief executive of environmental charity Hubbub, said: “The public is increasingly concerned about the impact plastic packaging has on the environment, and social media gives them a chance to voice their concerns directly to companies. The overly packaged, overly priced cauliflower steak shows what happens when companies don’t get things right and hopefully it will lead to more environmentally sensible solutions in the future.”

With so-called “Veganuary” under way and shoppers opting to reduce or cut out meat consumption in favour of “clean eating” choices, supermarkets have been pulling out the stops to offer customers a range of ready-prepared spiralised vegetables – and even “mince” made of pulverised mushrooms and cauliflower and beetroot “rice” – to help them get back into shape after the festive season blowout. But this year has seen a backlash from shoppers complaining on social media about excessive packaging.

The U-turn from M&S comes as the government prepares to announce a crackdown on excessive packaging and plastics on Thursday. A Defra spokesperson said: “Everyone has a role to play in tackling the scourge of plastics waste, and businesses need to make sure their packaging does not exceed what is required to make sure that the products are safe, hygienic and acceptable for both the product and for the consumer. ”