CINCINNATI — Does plant-based meat belong in the meat aisle? Kroger is joining forces with the Plant Based Foods Association (PBFA) to find out.
The two created a plant-based meat set within the conventional meat department. The retail concept will run across 60 different stores in Denver and parts of Indiana and Illinois for 20 weeks. Kroger’s analytics subsidiary, 84.51°, will help comb through data to determine the impact to plant-based and conventional meat sales and to customer engagement.
While plant-based meat traditionally has been placed far away from the meat aisle, there’s little consensus among retailers when it comes to placement. Some stores are putting plant-based meat in a refrigerated or frozen section with other alternative proteins, or in a dedicated vegan and vegetarian aisle. Some are putting plant-based meat products next to dairy items, while others are trying out the packaged meat section.
As the plant-based category becomes increasingly competitive, more brands are requesting that retailers do not place plant-based protein in areas where non-meat eaters traditionally buy vegetarian and vegan alternatives. Beyond Meat, for example, tells consumers its products can be found in the meat aisle.
Interest in alternative proteins is growing, especially among meat eaters adopting a flexitarian diet. Plant-based meat sales grew 8 percent last year, surpassing $800 million. The lack of a clear placement strategy, however, can cause confusion among consumers. The goal of Kroger and PBFA’s joint research project is to gain better insight on how to merchandise this expanding category and better connect with consumers.
“Plant-based meat sales have been increasing dramatically year over year, even while most of them are placed where only the most dedicated consumers are likely to find and purchase them,” said Julie Emmett, senior director of retail partnerships for the PBFA. “We are confident that this test will demonstrate that plant-based meat sales will increase even more when consumers have easier access to them.”
Both PBFA and Kroger will speak about the study at the Natural Product Expo East, taking place in Baltimore from Sept. 11-14. The results will be available to all retailers and the entire plant-based foods industry.