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Quirks: Two-year study tracks increasing consumer interest in plant-based foods

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By: Catherine Cowan, Lead Business Development Consultant, Merchandising

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The plant-based foods industry has experienced exponential growth in the past five years as consumers find more and more innovative options on grocery store shelves. The Plant Based Foods Association (PBFA) has been at the forefront of measuring plant-based food industry performance and working to better inform plant-based food companies, retailers and the broader food industry about key trends to further advance this burgeoning industry’s growth. While retail sales of plant-based foods are well documented, Julie Emmett, PBFA’s vice president of marketplace development, recognized a gap in research into the plant-based food shopper – more specifically, data that not only looked at spending habits across plant-based categories over time but also captured consumer sentiment and purchase intent to better understand the “why” and predict future trends.

Through strategic partnerships with top retailers, Emmett works to develop research that helps industry players understand the consumers driving the growth. This valuable information allows retailers to be at the cutting edge of merchandising strategies that make it easier for plant-based shoppers to find the products they're looking for and explore the ever-expanding variety and assortment of offerings that align with their personal values and lifestyle choices. In order to effectively implement strategies that meet consumer needs, core questions around how plant-based shoppers behave in the store and whether shoppers that engage with plant-based segments are actively displacing their animal-based purchasing need to be answered.

To provide the industry with insights into these questions, Emmett engaged 84.51°, the retail data, analytics and insights arm of grocery giant Kroger, to develop first-of-its-kind research that could serve as the foundation for consumer insights. PBFA and Kroger have a long history of collaboration and have produced industry-leading research on plant-based meat merchandising strategies that have influenced retailers across the U.S. The goal of this new research was to understand plant-based category engagement among Kroger shoppers. This includes the history of purchasing plant-based foods and shifts between plant-based and animal-based foods in order to identify where customers are migrating their spend. Understanding the interaction within plant-based categories and capturing shopper progression was also a crucial part of this research as it could provide invaluable insights to inform the plant-based foods industry as a whole.

The research, conducted via PBFA’s sister non-profit organization, the Plant Based Foods Institute (PBFI), was aimed at understanding how shopper behavior may be shifting between plant-based and animal-based foods. It aimed to uncover consumer attitudes and sentiment, leveraging 84.51° data science and insights experience.

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Catherine Cowan, Lead Business Development Consultant, Merchandising

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