Sales of plant-based meat increased by 23 percent when those products were placed in the animal meat department, according to a study conducted by Kroger in partnership with trade group Plant Based Food Association (PBFA). From December 2019 to February 2020, Kroger added a three-foot vegan meat display case inside of the meat department at 60 test stores in Denver, and parts of Indiana and Illinois to ascertain consumer buying habits. 

During the test period, research—conducted in partnership with Kroger’s data analytics subsidiary, 84.51°—included audits, sales analysis, education for store employees, and customer interviews. Feedback from customers included statements of excitement about the wide selection of plant-based meats with nearly all shoppers indicating that they assumed plant-based meats would typically be stocked alongside their animal counterparts and that doing so made the plant-based options easier to find. 

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

When broken down by region, Kroger’s Midwest locations saw a 32 percent increase during the research period and a 13 percent spike in sales in the Denver area test. “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.” Julie Emmett, senior director of retail partnerships at PBFA, said. “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.”

During the peak of the pandemic-buying period in mid-March, PBFA found that sales of plant-based foods increased by 90 percent when compared to sales during the same time last year. When it comes to vegan meat, sales spiked by 148 percent during the peak-buying period and continued to grow by 61 percent in the next four weeks, representing a growth rate that is twice as fast as animal-based meat. PBFA executive director Michele Simon said that retailers such as Kroger can continue to capitalize on these trends with proper placement of plant-based products. “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,” Simon said.