With more and more consumers exploring what plant-based foods have to offer and driving increasing demand for a wide—and growing—variety of products, there’s never been a better time for major retailers to seize the moment and provide more opportunities for their customers to buy plant-based. That’s why PBFA once again joined forces with retail giant Kroger to host the fourth annual (and third virtual) VegFest: A live online showcase of plant-based products and possibilities featuring PBFA member companies—exclusively for the Kroger team!

Hosted by Marcellus Harris, Kroger’s Assistant Commodity Manager for Poultry; and Jen Jacobs, PBFA’s Director of Marketplace Development, E-Commerce and Retail; this year’s VegFest was a rich, interactive experience packed with opportunities for attendees to immerse themselves in the world of plant-based. VegFest 2022 featured an eye-opening—and mouth-watering—live cooking demonstration from Greenleaf Foods Executive Chef and Culinary Director Tommy McDonald, who put the versatility and crave-ability of tempeh centerstage.

We appreciate the partnership both from the business aspect and in making VegFest a must-attend event for the Kroger team.” – Marcellus Harris, Assistant Commodity Manager for Poultry, Kroger

Kroger dietician Molly Hembree, MS, RD, LD, who has managed health programs for the company for over a decade, was also on hand to provide critical insights into the well-documented nutritional benefits of plant-based foods and diets. “Kroger VegFest was a wonderful inside look into the continued progress of the plant-based world of food,” said Molly. “From chef-curated recipes, to expert nutrition commentary, grocery industry insights, and innovative products hitting the market, it was a joy to attend this worthwhile event.”

And as always, one of VegFest’s marquee features was the virtual sampling event, where a wide range of innovative plant-based food companies—and PBFA members—showcased their products with fun branded videos, many of which were recorded and created just for VegFest. Members also had the chance to provide digital offers to introduce their products to the Kroger team in an even more tangible way. Participating PBFA members included Better Chew, Chlorophyll Water, Clo-Clo Vegan, Dandies, Gourmet Evolution, Greenleaf Foods/Lightlife/Field Roast, Hooray Foods, Impossible Foods, Improved Nature, Lupii, Mori-Nu, Misha’s Kind Foods, Nutcase Vegan Meats, Omni Foods, Outstanding Foods, Parma!, PlantCraft, The Simple Root, Snacktivist Foods, Southern Roots, Sunday Supper, Treeline Cheese, Unisoy, Unlimeat, Upton’s Naturals, Valsoia, and WhatIf Foods.

The Kroger team also had the chance to learn more about the larger food system impacts of plant-based foods and the farm-to-consumer journey from Renee Smith Nickelson, Policy Associate at the Plant Based Foods Institute, PBFA’s sister non-profit organization. Renee discussed the importance of meeting consumer demand for high quality ingredients, the many benefits of sourcing those ingredients domestically and bringing supply networks closer to home—from farmers to processors to companies—and growing crops for direct human consumption.

VegFest also featured remarks from Holly Adrien, Natural and Organic Strategy and Innovation Manager at Kroger, who shared insights into the many different approaches that Kroger is taking to gather information, conduct research, and promote plant-based foods to customers, including strategies to increase assortment of products across the store, provide increased and more effective in-store signage, roll out coupons and digital offers in the Kroger app, and hold unique in-person sampling opportunities. Finally, the educational portion of the event was wrapped up by Julie Emmett, PBFA’s Senior Director of Marketplace Development, who reaffirmed the importance of the PBFA-Kroger partnership and Kroger’s continued support of the plant-based sector and its incredible innovation.

“Kroger VegFest and the palpable excitement surrounding it is a moment that the PBFA team looks forward to every year, because it truly represents the diversity, marketability, and groundbreaking innovation that our members and the broader plant-based foods industry have to offer,” said Rachel Dreskin, CEO of PBFA. “Our continued partnership with Kroger on this event is incredibly valuable to our community as we work to provide more opportunities for our members to expand their retail presence, for our industry to meet increasing demand for plant-based foods, and for consumers to access a wider range of plant-based products.”

This year’s VegFest was bigger and better than ever, and we can’t wait to see what 2023 has in store for this signature event that has quickly become one of the highlights of our calendars—and what’s in store for PBFA’s partnership with our friends at Kroger. Stay tuned!

Here’s what other participating PBFA members had to say about VegFest 2022:

On behalf of Tommy, Sarah, Carolyn and myself, thank you again for allowing us to share the many benefits of tempeh and we look forward to future event participation with you.” – Christine Johnson, Sr. Sales Trade & Development Manager, Greenleaf Foods

I think the best part, after the curated cooking show, was hearing direct from Kroger in the QA. They are a long-admired retailer and one that many small startup brands aspire with which to be on shelf. As a new brand to the US, OmniFoods has experienced quick success in the natural channel with National distribution in Sprouts and five regions of Whole Foods in our first year. That’s very telling of our future success. Yet, we are still at the merch of the category review. Kroger is one of those customers we are excited to partner with and we believe our plant-based products would resonate well with the Kroger consumer.

Thank you for sharing our brand sell sheets and information with the Kroger team and the follow up post event. OmniFoods looks forward to future events and our continued collaboration with the PBFA.” – Naomi Canty, VP of Sales, Retail, OmniFoods/Green Monday 

We were delighted to participate in this year’s Kroger VegFest and loved to see how Kroger is leading the charge in plant based options for their customers.” – Cara Pitts, Co-Owner, Southern Roots

The Zoom event was so exciting and fun! We are looking forward to making the recipes. We were glad we could share information about our brand with critical persons in Kroger and hear what they envision in their stores.” – Monica Randles, MD, Co-Founder, Nutcase Vegan Meats

This was my first year attending Kroger VegFest and it was such an amazing experience.  The insightful discussions from the panelist really provided some great context from the inner workings of the grocery world and plant-based foods ecosystem. I also picked up a great recipe tutorial during the event! The Kroger executives’ willingness to provide information on how emerging brands can get on the radar for consideration was very encouraging as well. I can’t wait to participate next year and I strongly recommend any brands looking to learn more about the Grocery and Plant Based landscape to attend next year. –  Olu Davis, Head of Strategic Partnerships, Misha’s Kind Foods

We were thrilled to participate in the recent Kroger Fest virtual event hosted by PBFA. Each and every opportunity to create awareness among key decision makers at market leading Kroger is appreciated. As a mission-driven brand leading the Regenerative by Design (TM) movement, Snacktivist is a maker of plant-based, gluten-free, non-GMO baking mixes that have been specifically crafted to be plant-based in finished form and free from the top 8 allergens. Having a platform to tell our story is critical to building relationships with Kroger team members.

Our comfort food mixes include pancakes, plant-based protein pancakes, cookies, brownies, focaccia, plant-based protein falafel, and artisan multigrain flour. Our waffles and brownies have been added by chefs as the ‘only’ products prepared so no need to isolate in the kitchen – they are that good! Thank you, PBFA, for believing in our mission and our brand. Meg Carlson, VP Sales & Marketing, Snacktivist Foods