Consumer demand for plant-based foods continues to grow in double digits. In 2020,  57% of U.S. households purchased plant-based foods, over 80% of all Americans have tried plant-based foods, and 78% are repeat buyers. Based on these statistics and research performed by PBFA’s Marketplace Development team, retailers can better engage new and repeat plant-based consumers by making pointed shifts in their merchandising strategies. 

A pivotal PBFA pilot with Kroger grocery stores found that shoppers expect to find plant-based items alongside their conventional counterparts. The study tracked consumer engagement as well as sales of all plant-based meats sold when integrated within the conventional meat department across 60 Kroger stores in two markets and showed that plant-based meat sales increased by 23% in the test stores compared to the control stores. The project overall proved that it is important for retailers to place plant-based products near their animal-based alternatives where shoppers can easily find and purchase them. 

The impact of this research continues to ripple throughout the retail industry. A recent example of this is the launch of a plant-based cheese section in the dairy-cheese aisle in approximately 2000 Albertsons Companies stores in all divisions in late 2021.   

The Success of Plant-Based Cheese in Albertsons Companies

Data showed that consumer demand for plant-based was growing massively, which created an opportunity for Albertsons Companies to explore different merchandising strategies to leverage this growth. Integrating plant-based cheeses with their conventional counterparts showed the most potential for category growth. 

Violife Team Leader Lori Driscoll, together with brand partner Advantage Solutions, presented a comprehensive business plan leveraging consumer purchase data, industry insights, and PBFA’s plant-based merchandising best practices to demonstrate the opportunity of integrating top-performing plant-based items into the dairy-cheese section.  

Demonstrating strong leadership in innovative merchandising strategies, Albertsons Companies launched nationally with six Violife plant-based cheese items and four Open Nature plant-based items that included shredded cheese, sliced cheese, and cream cheese.     

Violife backed the launch with extensive shopper marketing and digital tactics to reach new Albertsons’ consumers and drive trial and repeat of their plant-based items in their new location in the dairy cheese aisle. 

Driscoll noted, “the data showed that making it easy for shoppers to find plant-based cheese, especially those already buying plant-based milk and plant-based meat, would bring new consumers, drive larger baskets, and incremental sales that will contribute to category growth.”

The early results are clear. Placing Violife and Open Nature plant-based cheese items in the dairy cheese aisle is contributing to exponential growth in units and dollars and far outpacing plant-based cheese sales prior to the reset.

The Takeaway 

Developing recommendations and best practices to help retailers capitalize on the ever-evolving plant-based landscape is a key focus for PBFA’s market development work. Integrating and expanding plant-based foods, next to their conventional counterparts–effectively making it easier for shoppers to find a broad assortment of plant-based foods–is an effective strategy to increase overall sales. 

As PBFA’s Senior Director of Marketplace Development Julie Emmett explains, “the goal is to change the retail environment in favor of more space and assortment of plant-based foods to fully meet consumer demand. It all comes down to understanding consumers who may be interested in trying plant-based options and adjusting in-store strategies to align with the ways they shop.”

PBFA is dedicated to helping members and retailers navigate these exciting opportunities that facilitate broader availability and access to plant-based foods.