With U.S. plant-based food sales having hit a record $7.4 billion in 2021, new consumer research from The Kroger Co. and the Plant Based Foods Institute (PBFI), sister nonprofit to the Plant Based Foods Association (PBFA), showed that plant-based shoppers are remaining loyal to the segment: 95% of plant-based consumers surveyed said that they had increased or maintained their plant-based spend versus the prior year.
“The research was conducted as part of Kroger’s long-term strategy predicated on listening to their customers,” explained Holly Adrien, the grocer’s natural and organics strategy and innovation manager. “Kroger is committed to learning from consumers and creating the optimal merchandising strategy for plant-based foods to best meet the needs of shoppers.”
Kroger collaborated with the PBFA on broad two-part research to understand actual plant-based shopper behavior and consumer sentiment, leveraging 84.51° data science and insights.
The Plant-Based Foods Migration Analysis, part one of the research, measured changes in plant-based customer spending in animal- and plant-based foods in five categories – milk, refrigerated and frozen meats, frozen meals, cheese, and yogurt – and revealed consumer shifts in engagement with each grocery segment. The second part of the research, a Plant-Based Foods Survey, probed plant-based consumer motivations for these shifts. Researchers evaluated purchases by nearly 8 million households over two years and broke shoppers into five segments: New, Increasing, Maintaining, Decreasing and Leaving plant-based foods.
Other findings from the “Plant-Based Foods Migration Analysis Report” are as follows:
- In year two (2020-1), plant-based consumers generally decreased or maintained their level of spending on animal-based foods, a reversal from year-one (COVID timeframe) spending.
- 43% of plant-based customers increasing or new to plant-based products choose plant-based milks over conventional dairy milk
- 54% of customers who are buying more plant-based foods are motivated by personal health concerns (such as cardiovascular or cancer concerns), and 49% said they believe plant-based alternatives are healthier than animal-based foods.
Year-over-year sales of plant-based foods at Kroger grew 1.5% from 2020 to 2021, following a 24% rise from 2019 to 2020. The research found that plant-based-engaged households that bought plant-based foods in 2020-1 typically decreased or maintained annual spending for animal-based foods. The average plant-based household that either maintained or boosted its spending on plant-based foods decreased its spending on animal-based foods by as much as $28.21. According to 84.51°, this indicates that households buying plant-based foods are continuing to swap out more animal-based products for plant-based alternatives over time, and that the rising popularity of flexitarian diets may lower animal-based meat consumption.
“One of the ways we can measure the impact of plant-based foods is to understand the displacement of animal-based foods in favor of plant-based foods through comprehensive research,” said Julie Emmett, senior director of marketplace development at San Francisco-based PBFI. “We must remove barriers for consumers by understanding shopper dynamics and taking an evidence-based look to ensure shoppers can easily find their products of choice. We appreciate our long-standing collaboration with Kroger and its willingness to share these results on behalf of the industry.”