USA – The American retailing company, Kroger has teamed up with Plant Based Foods Association (PBFA) to test a plant-based meat concept within its conventional meat department in 60 stores.

The retail concept will run in three states including Denver, parts of Indiana and Illinois for 20 weeks.

The test is being conducted in partnership with Kroger’s data analytics subsidiary, 84.51° and will help determine the impact of plant-based and conventional meat sales and customer engagement.

“We’re excited to team up with the Plant Based Foods Association to study this category,” Marcellus Harris, assistant commodity manager in the meat department for Kroger, said in a statement.

“The test, which emerged from our partnership with PBFA, will allow us to unearth rich insight regarding how to best merchandise the category and connect with consumers.”

As interests in alternative proteins are growing – especially among meat eaters adopting a flexitarian diet – lack of a clear placement strategy in stores has been viewed as a major factor affecting sales.

Moreso, there is little consensus among retailers when it comes to placement.  The goal of Kroger and P.B.F.A.’s joint research project is to gain better insight on how to merchandise this expanding category and better connect with consumers.

“We are thrilled to partner with Kroger on this innovative and exciting project,” said Julie Emmett, senior director of retail partnerships for the PBFA – the trade association representing more than 150 plant-based food companies.

“Plant-based meat sales have been increasing dramatically year over year, even while most of them are placed where only the most dedicated consumers are likely to find and purchase them.

“We are confident that this test will demonstrate that plant-based meat sales will increase even more when consumers have easier access to them.”

PBFA and Kroger representatives plan to discuss the study during the upcoming Natural Products Expo East trade show in Baltimore.

US retail sales of plant-based foods climbed 11 percent to US $4.5 billion over the past year, according to PBFA.

Meat is the second-largest plant-based food category, with sales up 10% over the past year to about US$801 million and representing 2% of overall retail packaged meat sales.

Sales of refrigerated plant-based meat, which rose 37% compared with 2% for its conventional meat counterpart.

Leading the way are sales of refrigerated plant-based meat, which rose 37% compared with 2% for its conventional meat counterpart.