- Whole Foods and Kroger’s King Soopers banner had the highest overall scores among plant-based food sellers in terms of product assortment, merchandising and marketing, according to a report from The Good Food Institute. Whole Foods has 360 plant-based meat, egg, and dairy products on its shelves and King Soopers stocks 410, which is 50% more than most other top retailers, which carry an average of 270 plant-based products.
- The Good Food Retail Report also recognized Giant Food and Wegmans for their plant-based assortments. Wegmans boasts the most on-shelf plant-based products, with a total of 530 items available, and its selection includes twice as many plant-based meat products and four times the number of plant-based cheese products as other top retailers, according to the report.
- Giant Food tops the rankings for merchandising because it shelves plant-based products from 10 out of 11 product categories alongside their animal-based counterparts, the report said. The study found that 91% of top retailers place plant-based products next to standard equivalents in at least two categories, while 65% offer at least one plant-based meat product in the meat aisle. More than 80% of retailers offer at least 10 different types of refrigerated plant-based meat products.
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a surge in demand for plant-based foods spurred by plant closures due to worker infections. U.S. sales of plant-based meat increased 200% year over year in the week that ended April 18, the Financial Times reported.
But among plant-based products, it not just sales of meat substitutes that are rising. Nielsen found that oat milk sales grew almost 477% in the week ending in March 14, while dairy milk sales grew only about 32%. Industry experts speculate the longer shelf life of non-dairy milk was a big draw for shoppers.
Sales of plant-based foods are growing five times faster than overall food sales, The Good Food Institute found.
Retailers that have the most plant-based products on their shelves may see the greatest benefit from these trends. This could be why many retailers have increased production of their private label lines in 2020. Kroger, which recently put Impossible Burgers in 1,700 stores, is expected to launch four new plant-based products in the second and third quarters, and Target aims to double its plant-based store brand assortment this year, according to the Good Food Report.
Currently, King Soopers has the best assortment of store-brand plant-based meat and dairy products among the top retailers, with 38, according to the report. In comparison, most of the top retailers offer about 15 private label plant-based products.
The report also notes that Whole Foods has the best plant-based foodservice offerings and offers plant-based meat in three times as many prepared food offerings as other retailers.
But most retailers have shut down their self-serve foodservice stations in the wake of coronavirus. If Wegmans, which has the most number of plant-based products on its shelves, added more store-brand products and plant-based prepared foods, it could be an industry leader in 2020.
The report also highlights areas where grocers can improve, like further integrating plant-based foods with their animal product counterparts or using “plant-based” instead of "vegan" or "vegetarian" in marketing materials in order to appeal to a larger audience.
“Plant-based eating is no longer niche," GFI Associate Director of Corporate Engagement Caroline Bushnell said in a statement. "Retailers are leaving money on the table when they isolate plant-based sets in hard-to-find sections or use exclusive category language, like ‘vegetarian.’"