Derek Sarno - Veganuary Ambassador - Hi-Res

Sarno led the plant-based strategy at Tesco for six years and developed two plant-based brands, Wicked Kitchen and Plant Chef 

Tesco has announced its director of plant-based innovation Derek Sarno is set to leave the retailer this month.

Sarno lead the plant-based strategy at Tesco for six years and developed two plant-based brands, Wicked Kitchen which launched in 2018 and Plant Chef which launched in 2019.

Plant Chef now includes more than 180 products, while Wicked Kitchen offers products including freshly prepared ready meals, salads, sandwiches and pizzas.

Sarno told The Grocer his next step is to “have a rest and then double down and continue creating foods and content for the Wicked Kitchen YouTube, so we can keep helping people cook and eat more plants”.

“I have loads of ideas I want to bring to life,” he added. “I’m open to opportunities as well. And of course will continue to work with mushrooms and mushroom growers. Working with Smithy Mushrooms here in the UK has been a highlight.”

Under Sarno, Tesco was the first retailer to introduce plant-based meat alternatives in the meat aisle, as well as establish a commitment to increase plant-based sales by 300% in 2025.

Sarno also played a leading role in bringing together Tesco’s in-house team with supplier partners Bakkavor and Samworth Brothers.

“Central to our success has been the partnership between Tesco and our supplier partners – their commitment and innovation has really brought plant-based food to a mass audience. Whether you’re a devotee of plant-based food, or trying it for the very first time, it’s great to see so many customers enjoying Wicked Kitchen and Plant Chef products,” said Sarno in a statement.

Tesco said his exit would mark the start of its new “veg-led” strategy with products incorporating more vegetables into their recipes set to feature prominently across the category in the future.

The retailer’s development and innovation of plant-based food will now be led by product director Briege Donaghy, who joined the business last February.

“We know making healthy eating easy and accessible is key to delivering for our customers,” commented Donaghy. “As we evolve our offer this year we will expand our ranges of ‘veg-led’ options, introducing some delicious new products which will help customers incorporate more veg into their diets whether they are vegan, vegetarian or simply wanting to reduce the amount of meat they eat.”

The new products include miso edamame burgers and ready-to-cook tray bakes which incorporate more vegetables, and a broader selection of vegetarian dishes which can be used as mains or side dishes.

“Derek has been a central part of our drive to bring plant-based into the mainstream, and it’s no surprise the category at Tesco has gone from strength to strength under his leadership,” said Sarah Bradbury, Tesco’s quality director. “He’s done a fantastic job and I’d like to thank him for all his hard work.”