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Are plant-based proteins here to stay?

2.5 min read

The next generation of plant-based protein products needs to taste good and sell. There are opportunities for products that perform like those designed to replace. Plant-based is not enough anymore.

Consumers are changing faster than ever. People decided they wanted to reduce or eliminate animal protein from their diet. Consumers and the value chain jumped on board. These recent changes to the market could be a family eating plant-based protein 2-3 nights per week instead of trying to do it 7 nights per week.

Significant choice for consumers

The shift in shelf space to plant-based proteins has been swift. Perhaps too swift. Producers, processors and retailers reacted relatively quickly to get products into the market and on the shelf.

Even during the pandemic, we saw the linear footage of plant-based protein products expand rapidly. There were branded products and private labels. It was interesting because retailers often wait to see how products will sell before diving in with their brands. Some say retailers let the suppliers work hard to establish products and then swoop in with their brands. Regardless of perspective, we saw many new items in the market.

Great ideas need to translate into cases

Regardless of whether they buy for their health or the impact on the planet, consumers probably only buy again if the product tastes good.

Regardless of whether they buy for their health or the impact on the planet, consumers will buy again only if the product tastes good.

It was apparent there was innovation in processing to develop some of these items, which excited people. We saw full bunkers devoted to Beyond Meat and other brands in the meat department.

Buying shelf space with listing fees is possible, but earning it with sales and margin is more desirable. We saw products getting shelf space with upfront investments and the belief from both retailers and suppliers that they would sell. Now we’ll see which products are earning their space on the shelf with baseline sales performance.

Delivering sales with plant-based protein

It must start with the eating experience. It would be interesting to understand the repeat purchase of plant-based protein products. Consumers will often try something once, but it must taste good to buy it again.

Consumers will buy again only if the product tastes good.

As an industry, we must figure out how to better merchandise these items. Some retailers consider it a category within a department, and others put them in natural food. Generating sales is difficult when consumers are confused about where to find the products. While we figure it out, suppliers of these items need to do a great job of helping consumers understand where to find their products in the stores.

One other opportunity is to reduce the processing and simplify the ingredients. Ironically, people choose to eat ‘healthier’ with these products, but they’re more processed and contain more preservatives than their competitors. As processors learn more about the items and how to produce them, I hope we see less processed and more natural products and ingredients.

Consumers, suppliers and retailers have been excited about these changes to the market. This year we will get a much better indication of which plant-based proteins will pay the rent and stay on the shelf.

Article by: Peter Chapman