CINCINNATI — Sales of plant-based meat alternatives increased by 23% when merchandised in the meat department at grocery stores, according to new research from the Plant Based Foods Association and the Kroger Co.

The placement of plant-based proteins was tested during a 12-week period prior to the coronavirus pandemic at 60 stores in Colorado, Indiana and Illinois. Within the Midwest, where more flexitarians are emerging, sales of plant-based meat alternatives increased 32% compared to control stores during the testing period. In the Denver area, which already had a large concentration of plant-based consumers, sales were 13% higher.

“This test provides one more proof point that plant-based meats have moved from niche to mainstream,” said Sean Brislin, merchandising director at 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.”

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.

“The increase in sales in the Midwest demonstrates there is tremendous opportunity for plant-based meats to succeed everywhere, including in the nation’s heartland.”  

Since the virus’s onset, Kroger’s plant-based meat sales have remained strong. The retailer said it has attracted 50% more new plant-based consumers between March and June over the prior year and, as shoppers stockpiled groceries during the timeframe, sales of plant-based meat grew by more than 75% at Kroger stores.

“As plant-based meat sales continue to grow, with sales increasing even more rapidly compared to pre-pandemic levels, this research becomes even more compelling for retailers to locate plant-based meats in the meat section if they want to maximize sales by reaching more consumers,” said Michele Simon, executive director of the Plant Based Foods Association.