Kroger is beefing up its meat aisle with plant-based alternatives.
The country’s largest grocery retailer found that plant-based meat sales surged 23 percent when sold in the meat department, according to a study released Thursday by The Plant-Based Foods Association in partnership with the supermarket chain.
In the study, which ran for 12 weeks between December 2019 and February 2020, plant-based meat such as the Beyond Meat burger or Impossible Foods alternative meat verities were placed in the meat department at 60 test stores across three states: Colorado, Indiana and Illinois.
The study also found that plant-based meat sales rose 32 percent during the test period in the Midwest region where more flexitarian eaters are emerging. And in Denver, which already had a high number of plant-based eaters, the test showed plant-based meat sales surged 13 percent.
Meat alternatives that are vegan and vegetarian have been for the most part sold separately from meat products. And meat purveyors have had beef with plant-based producers labeling their products as “beef” or “meat.”
Some states have imposed stricter food labeling laws that side with the animal agriculture industry in recent years. Arkansas lawmakers created a food labeling law in 2019 that forbids companies like Tofurky from using meat names like burgers and sausages if the product isn’t actually made from animal products. However, a federal judge in Arkansas halted the law on the basis of violating the First Amendment’s right to freedom of speech.
Retail sales for plant-based foods in the U.S. have increased by 11 percent compared to last year, according to the latest data from the Plant-Based Foods Association and the nonprofit Good Food Institute.
“This research proves that it is important for retailers to place plant-based meat where shoppers expect to find it: in the meat department. Other retailers are sure to make this change with this new data in hand," Julie Emmett, senior director of retail partnerships at the Plant-Based Foods Association, said in a statement.
And more fast-food chains, restaurants and grocery stores want a bite of the action. Kroger announced recently it was launching its own version of meat substitutes like burgers and lunch meat under its brand Simple Truth this year.