The Kroger Co. has teamed up with the Plant Based Foods Association (PBFA) to test a plant-based meat concept inside 60 stores in three states.
Kroger and PBFA said Tuesday that the three-foot, plant-based meat sets — located within the meat department — will be piloted for 20 weeks at stores in Denver (King Soopers) and parts of Indiana and Illinois (Kroger Central division).
In the trial, the stores will gauge the concept’s impact on plant-based and conventional meat sales as well as assess customer engagement, Kroger and PBFA said. Also participating in the pilot is 84.51°, Kroger’s data analytics subsidiary, whose suite of tools will be used to translate customer data into actionable information.
“We’re excited to team up with the Plant Based Foods Association to study this category,” Marcellus Harris, assistant commodity manager in the meat department for Kroger, said in a statement. “The test, which emerged from our partnership with PBFA, will allow us to unearth rich insight regarding how to best merchandise the category and connect with consumers.”
Kroger and Washington, D.C.-based PBFA noted that the selected stores serve “broad and diverse” customer groups, allowing for the capture of representative and scalable results. Based on results of the 20-week test, all retailers and the plant-based foods industry will benefit from detailed research to guide merchandising and marketing decisions, they said.
“We are thrilled to partner with Kroger on this innovative and exciting project,” stated Julie Emmett, senior director of retail partnerships for the Plant Based Foods Association, which has 150 member companies. “Plant-based meat sales have been increasing dramatically year over year, even while most of them are placed where only the most dedicated consumers are likely to find and purchase them.”
PBFA and Kroger representatives plan to discuss the study on Wednesday at the Natural Products Expo East trade show in Baltimore.
“We are confident that this test will demonstrate that plant-based meat sales will increase even more when consumers have easier access to them,” Emmett added. “We applaud Kroger for taking the lead on plant-based meat merchandising, and we are confident that the outcome will be a win for retailers, suppliers and especially for consumers.”
U.S. retail sales of plant-based foods climbed 11% to $4.5 billion over the past year, according to PBFA and The Good Food Institute. Behind dairy, meat is the second-largest plant-based food category, with sales up 10% over the past year to about $801 million and representing 2% of overall retail packaged meat sales. Leading the way are sales of refrigerated plant-based meat, which rose 37% compared with 2% for its conventional meat counterpart.
Last week, Cincinnati-based Kroger unveiled Simple Truth Plant Based, a new line of fresh, meatless burgers and grinds and other plant-based foods under its Simple Truth natural/organic private brand. Rolling out this fall and into 2020, the collection will include meatless burger patties, meatless grinds, deli slices (black forest ham and salt-and-pepper turkey) and sausages (kielbasa and chorizo), among other items. Kroger said the Simple Truth Plant Based products will sport easy-to-identify packaging, including an icon that will make it easier for customers to find the brand on stores shelves and on Kroger.com.