Are grocers shortchanging flexitarians?
Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from Frozen & Refrigerated Buyer magazine.
As recently as a decade ago, most people eating veggie burgers were die-hard vegetarians. Today, veggie burgers are on the menu at T.G.I. Friday’s. Clearly, a lot has changed as plant-based foods have gone from niche to mainstream.
New Nielsen data reveals retail sales of plant-based foods shot up 20 percent to more than $3.3 billion in all outlets combined during the 52 weeks ending in June, compared to a gain of eight percent the previous year. That’s a whopping 10 times the growth recorded by all food (approximately two percent) during the same period.
With the ranks of vegetarians and vegans for the past 20 years remaining steady (about eight percent combined), health-minded flexitarians are driving the uptick. Several recent surveys put the percentage of Americans looking to add more plants to their diet as high as 54 percent. Millennials also are said to be the first generation that doesn’t see a stigma around meat-free.
Also supporting the trend are new categories and flavors across meat and dairy substitutes, trendy items (i.e., smoothies, overnight oats, acai bowls), amped up advertising (i.e., “protein-rich,” “fiber-rich”), to-go options, increasing non-frozen alternatives and easy meal-prep solutions.
But grocers have been slow to respond and are playing catch up to the growth with regard to assortments and space.
Most manufacturers are dead-set against segregating plant-based foods in a single set — or what some suppliers refer to as “the penalty box.” Sure, it will be easy to find — for the dedicated vegetarians who care enough to actually look for it. But the majority of shoppers including flexitarians who might choose plant-based if it’s presented as an option will never go there.
“If retailers think this extraordinary growth is isolated to just traditional frozen and refrigerated doors, they’ll likely miss out,” added Matthew Carrington, EVP/SVP of strategic planning and business development for Worthington Foods. “They should be aggressively looking at where else plant-based options might fit into their stores.”
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Are grocers underplaying the plant-based foods trend in their assortments? Will buyers eventually catch up or are they facing challenges incorporating diverse selections of meat and dairy substitutes into their mix to appeal to flexitarians?