Figures from one of the largest conventional retailers in the US reveal that out of all its grocery stores in southern California in the five weeks up to 17 April this year, the Beyond Burger was the number-one-selling beef patty in the meat case, according to Brown. “So we’re selling more than Angus beef, more than 80/20 beef, more than grass-fed beef, by unit,” he says. “My expectation about being in the meat case was to simply hold on and not get thrown out. I never thought in a million years that we’d rise this quickly to be the number one seller in terms of patties in the meat case.”
This has been revealed in a recent interview for Forbes, in relation to a discussion whether vegan options should be alongside meat in the grocery stores.
Beyond Meat’s products – which now include sausages and strips and are priced at the high end of organic and grass-fed counterparts – are currently sold in 25,000 retailers across the US from Whole Foods to Walmart.
Brown says the company’s sales doubled over the past year, and will double again this year.
As the technology develops, he anticipates prices coming down and sales to continue to increase. “Our biggest issue is keeping up with demand,” he says.
Another sign that times are changing when it comes to the placement of vegan meat products in retail stores is the recent sales of Don Lee Farm’s organic plant-based burger. The California-based company – which also makes animal-based meat products – announced last month that it had sold more than a million of the burgers in less than 60 days. What’s particularly notable is that these sales came exclusively from Costco stores across the country where
The product is placed in the freezer department alongside meat-based items such as Kirkland raw beef patties.
According to Don Lee Farm’s development expert Danny Goodman, the plant-based products – which are sold at several other mainstream supermarkets in the US including Publix, Vons and Stater Bros – have now become a majority portion of the company’s incremental sales, accounting for three-quarters of the total.
Goodman believes other retailers will start to follow Costco’s lead when it comes to positioning plant-based products. “Generally, our organic vegetarian and plant-based items are positioned in the healthy or alternative sections at retailers,” he says. “However, innovative club stores like Costco have always placed our items alongside other meat items in the same category. This thinking is more in line with how retailers will see our items in the future as they catch up to how shoppers categorize them themselves: all burgers together and all hot dogs together, whether it’s beef, pork, turkey or plant-based.
The barrier separating the alternative sections and the meat sections has been blurring over the last several years and they’ll continue to fold into one another.”
His predictions carry weight, given that similar moves have been made by retailers to stock plant-based milks, cheeses and yoghurts alongside dairy products. “For decades, plant-based milks were tucked away, only for people who sought them out,” says Alison Rabschnuk, director of corporate engagement at the Good Food Institute. “During this time, they were a negligible portion of the market. Then Dean Foods bought [vegan milk brand] Silk and positioned it to compete on taste, price and convenience. Now plant-based milks are sold in the refrigerated section alongside dairy milk and comprise 10% of the market. That’s the way forward for growing the market share of other plant-based products – compete on taste, price, and convenience.”
This is the strategy that JUST – formerly Hampton Creek – is employing.
Its shelf-stable eggless products, including its Just Mayo mayonnaise, are sold alongside mainstream items in more than 90% of its retailers, something that vice-president of retail partnerships Matt Riley says is key to the company’s success. “Achieving our ultimate goal of helping create a world where everyone eats well requires us to appeal to more than vegan, vegetarian and predominantly plant-based consumers,” says Riley. “Creating products that taste great and are priced right is half the battle. Ensuring our products are stocked alongside conventional competitors is also incredibly important.”
According to Riley, recent US retail point-of-sale data shows that Just Mayo is the only 30oz growing in the grocery category and at a top three national retailer, it leads growth in 30oz mayo. It’s these kinds of results that are leading retailers to be more flexible and willing to listen to brands in regards to where the latter’s products are placed in stores. “We’re helping bring growth back to all those categories that have been flat or declining for some time,” says Riley. “Our partners view us as part of the solution.”
Tommy McDonald, chef at long-running vegan meat company Field Roast in Seattle, agrees. “As plant-based food manufacturers, we’re in an interesting position because our category is growing so quickly,” he says. “Many larger grocery store groups feel like they’re behind the curve when it comes to what we do, so they seem much more receptive to our input than they have been in the past.”
Read more on this discussion in the original piece here.
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