Which Protein Do Consumers Spend the Most On? It’s Not Meat and Dairy, Study Finds

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A recent study by the Plant Based Foods Institute and leading supermarket chain Kroger, found that consumers are changing their purchasing habits.

Consumer shopping habits are always in flux but the recent report found that’s especially true when it comes to protein choices. Notably, households that spent more on plant-based products decreased their purchases of animal-based options.

The findings come as sales for plant-based protein were flat over the last year. But according to the research even with declining sales in the plant-based category, those purchasing plant-based options still decreased their purchase of animal products, too, by about $60.

The findings

The study looked at Kroger shopper data across several key categories over two years of spending, including milk, cheese, yogurt, frozen meals, frozen meat, and refrigerated meat. According to the findings, nearly 60 percent of shoppers in 2020 were either new to the plant-based category or had increased or maintained their previous category purchases.

Photo by Joshua Rawson Harris at Unsplash.

In 2021, 54 percent were still in that category with nearly 30 increasing how many plant-based purchases they made over the previous year. Purchases of dairy-free cheese and yogurt last year saw more than 33 percent new shoppers to the category. Similar numbers were seen in the plant-based frozen meals category and refrigerated plant-based meat products.

“During Year One, the influence of covid ‘pantry loading’”’ was evident in consumer buying patterns,” reads the report. “Households that were increasing or decreasing their spend in plant-based categories also increased their spend in animal-based categories.

“In Year One, we observed new households trying different categories of plant-based foods. Plant-based meat had the largest portion of New households in 2020, with 63 percent of households classified as New. Plant-based cheese was the second highest with 40 percent of households classified as New.
Growth in plant-based New and Increaser households from 2019-2020 translated to sales growth across plant-based categories. Most categories witnessed double-digit percent growth, with plant-based refrigerated meat seeing increases of over 200 percent.”

Continued interest

As covid panic buying decreased, the researchers say they noticed new trends emerging in Year Two.

“Coming off a year with many new households across each plant-based category, New households continued to grow in 2021 and made up 18 percent of the migration segment across the total plant-based categories,” the report explains. “This progression demonstrates that there is continued interest in plant-based categories building on the covid bump from the year prior.

“Following a year of record sales growth, a slowdown in category sales was expected; however, a majority of plant-based categories continued to grow. Most significantly, plant-based yogurt saw the largest sales increase of the plant-based categories with 13.5 percent growth; in addition, 37 percent of households were from the New segment. These numbers suggest there were successful new items and/or innovations in this space that brought new households in and notably, increased sales.”

The researchers say that in both 2020 and 2021, those who purchased more plant-based cheese increased their total overall spend compared to other groups by nearly $70, “suggesting that these households are the most loyal and engaged in plant-based overall out of all the target groups.”


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