CARSON, Calif. – Retailer Bristol Farms is the first grocer in the country selling unpackaged plant-based meats and entrees behind the glass in its butcher section.

A new Bristol Farms store in Yorba Linda, California, will feature the plant-based items.

The selection at the Yorba Linda store includes plant-based chicken burgers and breakfast sausage from Huntington Beach, California-based Before the Butcher as well as items like no-meat taco mix, vegetarian meatloaf, vegetarian stuffed cabbage, chorizo-stuffed potatoes and a Mediterranean meatless patty made by Bristol Farms chefs using Before the Butcher’s ground products.

Bristol Farms is Before the Butcher’s first retail partner, but the company is in discussion with every major retailer in the country and also many smaller retailers, said Danny O’Malley, Before the Butcher’s president. (Until the Bristol Farms deal, the company was focused on foodservice.)

“I don’t have to tell you how hot the market is for the products we have, and we’re really excited about it,” O’Malley said. “What makes us special is we have a broad product line for foodservice and retail.”

For now, all of the Before the Butcher products sold at Bristol Farms will be sold behind the meat counter, but the two companies are also in talks to add Before the Butcher products to Bristol Farms’ prepared food offerings, O’Malley said.

The alternative protein revolution, he said, has many grocery retailers starting to think differently about how they label their meat department.

“We don’t refer to it as the meat department — it’s the protein department,” O’Malley said. “There’s seafood, poultry, many times wild game, beef, lamb, sometimes goat — a lot of different proteins. We’re another protein source, and we believe we belong there with other protein sources and believe the consumer is ready for that.”

Health, environmental impact and concerns over animal cruelty are the three main factors driving demand for alternative proteins, O’Malley said.

“We provide the ideal transition for anybody interested in eating a little healthier,” he said. “Our products mimic the comfort foods everyone loves. The texture, bite and chew are very similar to animal-based protein, and the taste is great. When you bite down, you’re going to say, ‘This is a burger.’ It just happens to be made out of plants.”

Environmental impact, meanwhile, is particularly important to younger consumers, O’Malley said. “Middle-millennials on down, they’re concerned about the environment in a big way, and they’ve been educated and have grown up that way. They get it. We don’t have to spend a lot of time talking to them about the environmental impact, they already know that.”

Demographic trends ensure that demand for plant-based proteins will only grow, O’Malley said.

“This is not a fad – I even struggle with the word trend,” he says. “It’s a lifestyle change that people are making. And it’s not going to change. We know that by 2050, the world will probably have 9 billion people. We cannot feed 9 billion people with animal-based proteins.”

And that growth will not primarily be led by people switching to vegetarianism and veganism, O’Malley says.

“Probably 80 percent plus of our products are consumed by meat eaters. That’s the core of our customer base. Vegetarians are really important to us, and we want to make sure we take care of all of them, but the biggest group is meat eaters – flexitarians, reducitarians. They’re looking for another option. They may never stop eating meat, but they want to know another option is out there. We are a transitional product that people never transition out of.”