Kroger finds plant-based meat sells better next to real meat

Beyond Meat, Impossible Foods could sell better in meat aisle, according to a Kroger study

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.

Packages of beef are displayed for sale alongside Impossible Burger plant-based meat. (Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

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.

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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.

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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.

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“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.

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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.

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