It’s an exciting time for flexitarians and the retailers who cater to them. What’s a flexitarian? Flexitarians are people who want more plant-based foods in their diet, but they also eat meat. This consumer niche is growing exponentially, and large manufacturers like IGA Red Oval Partner Kellogg’s USA have developed plant-based products that look, taste, and perform just like meat to help retailers target this growing consumer category.
The plant-based business has grown by 5.6 percent annually since 2004 with an anticipated increase of 19.2 million households to this category. “That means $2 billion in new category sales over the next six years,” says Mike Browne, vice president of sales, wholesale channel, Kellogg’s USA.
To learn more about the plant-based refrigerated meat category, Heidi Huff, senior director of Red Oval partnerships, spoke with Browne about the explosive growth of plant-based meat products, including Kellogg’s new Incogmeato line. He also discussed how retailers should market and merchandise plant-based meat products to appeal to the growing number of flexitarian households.
Watch the full interview with Kellogg’s Mike Browne below, or read on for more.
Who are Flexitarians?
There have long been vegetarians and vegans, who make up 8 percent of consumers in the U.S., according to Browne. The emergence of the flexitarian opens up a huge new sales opportunity, and Kellogg’s USA has the technology and plant-based food foundation as a company to help retailers grow sales in the category.
“Flexitarians are folks that want a choice, and they want to have both plant- and animal-based foods in their diet,” Browne says. “They’re looking for plants to bring diversity in their diet for health and wellness, environmental reasons, and other things that are important to them. And taste is always important to them.”
Plant-based Milk Demonstrates Growth Potential
Browne cites the plant-based milk category as an example of the potential for plant-based meats. A few years ago, only a few plant-based milks were available in the grocery aisles. Today, the refrigerated milk department carries a vast array of plant-based milks made from almond, soy, and coconut, to name a few.
“It was a novelty before, but now, one in two Americans will drink plant-based milk,” Browne says. “And 90 percent of them drink both animal-based and plant-based.”
Browne sees a similar trend happening in plant-based meat products, with refrigerated products leading the new growth. “There have been frozen meat alternatives for a while doing very well, and now refrigerated is coming into play,” he says. “About 40 percent of leading food firms have something in development for plant-based alternatives to meat and dairy products.”
The technology for manufacturing these types of products has vastly improved, Browne says. And Kellogg’s is on the leading edge with its Incogmeato brand products that taste and perform just like meat. “Flexitarians want meat,” Browne says. “They want chicken that pulls apart like a real chicken nugget and a burger that browns and sears. And of course they want good taste.”
The technology wasn’t there before as it is today, and the supply chain makes it happen. “All those things have to come into place for large growth,” he says.
Tips For Plant-based Meat Success at Retail
Start with the plant-based burger. “Burger is 60 percent of the entry into this category. So if you’re a retailer trying to get folks to try this type of product, you want to make sure everything’s going well in the burger category,” Browne says. Once retailers have established sales and brand loyalty for the burgers, they can move onto plant-based ground beef, sausages, and chicken products.
Shelve product near real meat. Optimal shelving for plant-based meats is next to the animal equivalent. Browne recommends positioning Incogmeato Chik’n Nuggets next to the frozen chicken nuggets, for example, and the Incogmeato Burger Patties next to the burgers in the refrigerated section. “The flexitarian is going to be buying both, so create its own [meat alternative] section next to the meat,” he says.
Display signage showing meat alternatives. Use in-store signage to communicate with shoppers that you do have plant-based refrigerated meat or plant-based frozen chicken. “Let the shopper know that you’ve got it, and where they can get it,” Browne says. “They’re going to see it on television, social media, and in IGA ads. But make sure we’re letting them know where they can buy it because this is going to be new behavior for some folks.”
Choose well-established, committed brands. With the explosive growth of the plant-based meat category, there are a lot of brands retailers can choose from. Browne says retailers should prioritize stocking products from brands that will be around for the long haul and will provide marketing and retailer support in and outside the store. “Make sure as you’re looking at the distribution decisions that you’re looking at the commitment to this business,” Browne says. “The reason why Kellogg’s is in this business is because we’ve always been a plant-based company.”
Kellogg’s was founded on corn flakes and the ready-to-eat cereal category, and MorningStar Farms has provided plant-based foods for vegetarians and vegans for decades, he notes. Incogmeato, a sub brand of MorningStar Farms, has six main products: Original Bratwurst, Original Chik’n Nuggets, Burger Patties, Italian Sausage, Disney Mickey Mouse Chik’n Nuggets, and Plant-based Ground.
Incogmeato products come frozen, so retailers can simply slack it out on the store shelves as needed, and the shelf life is 12 months. “Technology enables you to avoid the shrink that sometimes comes when operating animal based protein,” Browne says.
“There are going to be retailers who see what happened with milk, and they’re going to be rightfully purposeful,” Browne says. “I would love to have all of our retailers have that same ability to help shoppers find what they’re looking for and discover some new things as well. Retailers will benefit from the goodness of the food and the sales and profit that come with it.”