The Plant Based Foods Association worked with Kroger to see how plant-based meat sales performed when sold in the meat department — particularly new plant-based substitutes like lunchmeat, hot dogs and bacon that have traditionally been stocked in the vegan section — and sales jumped by double digits.
The retailer and the association teamed up in late December to begin testing a dedicated plant-based meat section in 60 stores. The section is accompanied by large Simple Truth signage, but Kroger’s store brands were not specific to the test, representatives of Kroger’s analytics arm 84.51° told Store Brands.
They did provide further background on the study, saying newer plant-based brands like Beyond Meat, Pure Farmland and Lightlife had previously been selling plant-based patties and grinds in the meat department, but some substitutes like hot dogs, lunchmeat and bacon had not been in the meat department but rather in the vegan set. The test aimed to see how those products would perform when sold with meat. The numbers were big.
The test demonstrated that sales of those plant-based substitutes increased by 23% when sold in the meat department. By region, the Illinois and Indiana stores (areas known to be less adaptive to plant-based meats) saw a sales increase by 32% and Denver stores (an area already farther into the trend) saw an increase by 13%.
84.51° conducted the test, which included shopper interviews and emails, education for store personnel, audits and sales analysis. The control test of the section ran from December 2019 through February, comparing 60 stores in Colorado, Indiana and Illinois with a plant-based section in the meat department compared to stores without.
“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,” said Julie Emmett, senior director of retail partnerships at San Francisco-based PBFA.
“This test provides one more proof point that plant-based meats have moved from niche to mainstream,” said Sean Brislin, merchandising director, Kroger, Cincinnati. “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."
While the Simple Truth branding was evident to help call out the section in the stores, and Simple Truth product was in both sections, the test didn’t look at how the retailer’s own brands performed specifically. The company’s Emerge grinds had launched during the test but weren't part of the test. Simple Truth’s plant-based line launched in September and helped contribute to a huge year in sales for the retailer.
Kroger said during the months of March through June, peak pandemic, the retailer expanded its plant-based meat customer count by more than 50% compared to last year at this time. Additionally, customers purchased more often and in greater quantities to register a sales spike of more than 75% during the period.
Kroger’s sales trend followed right in line with that of total U.S. plant-based foods gains, per a study that the PBFA did with Spins, showing plant-based meat sales growing 61% through the end of April, and plant-based meat sales up 148% year over year.
The PBFA represents more than 170 member companies focusing on the plant-based foods industry and policy.