The Plant Based Foods Association (PBFA), the trade association representing 170 plant-based food companies, and Kroger, the largest grocery retailer in America, found that plant-based meat sales increased by 23% when those items were sold in the meat department.
The study, which placed all plant-based meat in a three-foot set within the meat department, ran for 12 weeks from December 2019 through February 2020. The 60 test stores spanned three states: Colorado, Indiana, and Illinois.
In the Midwest region, where more flexitarians are emerging, plant-based meat sales were up 32% during the test period. In the Denver area, which already had a high concentration of plant-based consumers, the test also showed impressive results, with plant-based meat sales up 13%.
Julie Emmett, senior director of retail partnerships at the Plant Based Foods Association said, “This research proves that it is important for retailers to place plant-based meat where shoppers expect to find it: in the meat department. Other retailers are sure to make this change with this new data in hand.”
“This test provides one more proof point that plant-based meats have moved from niche to mainstream,” said Sean Brislin, merchandising director, Kroger. “Kroger continues to experience double-digit growth in the plant-based category, and this test demonstrates the viability of shifting product placements to reach even more customers. We thank the Plant Based Foods Association for partnering with us on this insightful merchandising research project.”
The research included sales analysis, shopper interviews and emails, education for store personnel, and audits. The test was conducted in partnership with Kroger’s data analytics subsidiary, 84.51°.
Common interview responses from shoppers included how “excited and impressed” they were about the many options within the new set. Nearly all shoppers presumed the plant-based meats would be in the meat department near their animal-based meat counterpart, explaining that the tests made plant-based alternatives easier to find and purchase.
Despite recent changes in the food industry resulting from COVID-19, the latest data from Kroger indicates that plant-based meat sales remain strong.
From March to June 2020, Kroger increased its plant-based meat customer count by more than 50% compared to last year at this time. In addition, customers purchased more often and in greater quantities than before, which led to sales growth of more than 75% during this time.
Kroger’s trends mirror the total US plant-based food showing plant-based meat sales growing 61% post panic buying through the end of April.