Meat alternatives call for moxie merchandising

Although sales have slowed for plant-based meats, the category is ripe for expansion as more vendors launch products and prices migrate toward those of traditional meats.

Unit sales of chilled and frozen plant-based meats totaled 17.2 million for the four weeks ended April 24, down 8.3% from a year earlier, according to CPG-based market research firm. ChicagoIRI. Pound sales for the period fell 6.4% to 12 million, while dollar sales edged up 0.7% to $92.3 million, boosted by inflation.

To engage shoppers and maximize shelf revenue, retailers need to find the right balance of merchandising for plant-based and conventional meats and identify the best areas of the store to display them, said Anne-Marie Roerink, president of 210. Analytics LLC, a San Antonio company. market research and marketing strategy firm.

Point-of-sale signage can alert customers to plant-based offerings in the meat aisle. (Photo courtesy of 210 Analytics)

“Household penetration is stagnating at around 10%, with high levels of trialling. So the most important discussion is about resizing the assortment to optimize sales in the meat department,” she noted. “Having too many plant-based selections means you’re using a niche where a more mobile item could have brought in higher sales, but being under-spaced can mean a shopper interested in plant-based meat alternatives will walk away empty-handed.

Streamlining SKUs can help retailers determine how much space to allocate to plant-based meats, said Jim Wisner, president of Wisner Marketing LLC, a Gurnee, Illinois-based retail consultancy. For example, such research might reveal the need to expand the refrigerated meat section to accommodate plant-based products and reduce space in adjacent areas to compensate for the expansion, he noted.

In turn, retailers should identify top-selling and bottom-selling items when determining which plant-based selections to offer, Wisner added.

“If shoppers stop buying item ‘B’ every time product ‘A’ goes on sale, you probably don’t need item ‘B’ because it’s substitutable in the spirit of the customer,” he explained. “Operators need to determine the extent to which a purchasing decision is based on price versus product or brand.”

Analysts say in-store placement also plays a pivotal role in marketing plant-based meats and driving the category’s growth.

Localizing plant-based meats in multiple areas will allow retailers to increase their visibility and address different shopping journeys, Roerink said. For example, vegans and vegetarians “are not happy to have to go to the meat section and prefer to see products in the produce or frozen sections”, she pointed out.

Falling plant-based meat prices sign_210 Analytics.jpgThe price gap between plant-based meats and their conventional counterparts has narrowed, making these alternatives more palatable to shoppers. (Photo courtesy of 210 Analytics)

However, a 2020 test by the San Francisco-based Plant Based Foods Association (PBFA) and Cincinnati-based The Kroger Co. found that sales of plant-based meat increased by 23% when these items were been placed in the meat department.

This is the approach taken by hard discount grocer Aldi US. The Batavia, Ill.-based chain, with about 2,150 stores in 38 states, is among retailers selling plant-based options in the meat section alongside conventional beef, chicken and pork. Aldi stores offer selections such as the Black Bean Chipotle Burger and Chickenless Tenders under its Earth Grown brand.

“We like grocery shopping to be quick and convenient, so it makes sense to have plant-based products throughout the store near traditional offerings,” said Joan Kavanaugh, vice president of national purchasing. at Aldi US.

Still, generating trials from shoppers unfamiliar with plant-based meats remains a challenge, Kavanaugh noted. She said Aldi was working to boost business by mimicking “tried-and-true meat favorites,” such as offering flame-grilled protein burgers and chicken-free patties.

“Patties help new plant-based meat eaters try something new in an accessible way,” according to Kavanaugh.

Using point-of-sale markers such as labels, signs and dividers to highlight plant-based meats also improves visibility, said Russell Zwanka, food marketing program director and associate professor of marketing. food at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo. He recommended plant-based pricing be similar to conventional meats.

“Unless the customer is a practicing vegetarian, they mostly try these products,” Zwanka observed.

Stores can also conduct trials by offering discounts and plant-based meats crossed with other meal components to eliminate the need for shoppers to visit other departments to “guess together what’s for dinner.” , said Roerink.

“Always have a plant-based meat brand on promotion to satisfy the plant-based meat shopper,” added Julie Emmett, Senior Director of Market Development at PBFA. “Retailers can also partner with brands to ensure supply will cover demand to avoid stock-outs, especially as animal meat prices rise.”

Merchants can also use loyalty card data to target shoppers by market and determine the most relevant selections to offer at each store, Emmett noted. “Because plant-based meat appeals more to young millennials and Gen Z, digital marketing is also extremely effective,” she said.
The continued development of products that improve taste and texture and reduce the amount of ingredients will further increase household penetration, Roerink said, adding that “the field of plant-based meat alternatives is always changing.” .

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