PBFA and Kroger conducted a retail test from December 2019 to February 2020, which placed plant-based meat products in the three-foot set within the animal meat departments at 60 stores in Colorado (King Soopers), Indiana and Illinois.
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°.
The study found that plant-based meat sales increased an average of 23% compared to control stores. 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, plant-based meat sales increased by 13% over the 12-week period.
“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,” commented Julie Emmett, senior director of retail partnerships at PBFA.
“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.”
Easier to find and purchase
Shoppers commonly reported how “excited and impressed” they were about the many options within the new set, and increased their number of plant-based meat purchase occasions in both Colorado (+14%) and Midwest (+34%) regions, according to the report.
Test stores in Illinois and Indiana also attracted 32% more shoppers than control stores with many noting they preferred plant-based alternatives in the meat department because they were easier to find and purchase.
Colorado King Soopers participating in the test saw a 14% rise in new shoppers purchasing plant-based meat.
Plant-based meat sales trends & COVID-19
Despite recent changes in the food industry resulting from COVID-19, the latest data from Kroger indicates that plant-based meat sales remain strong, said PBFA.
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 plant-based products more often and in greater quantities than the same three-month period in 2019, which led to sales growth of more than 75% from March to June 2020. This mirrors the total U.S. plant-based meat sales, which grew by 90% for the 16 weeks up to April 19, 2020 compared to the same period last year, according to SPINS retail data.
“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 PBFA.