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WHERE’S THE PLANT-BASED?

Alice: ‘What road do I take?’ Cheshire Cat: ‘Where do you want to go?’ Alice: ‘I don’t know.’ Cheshire Cat: ‘Then it really doesn’t matter, does it?’

New consumer research reveals shopper confusion that could be hurting your sales. 

If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there. 

This old adage from the Cheshire Cat in Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland,” points to one of the problems occurring in plant-based foods today: where should it go? 

A recent Cadent study conducted for another category indicated that findability is the No. 1 barrier to purchase. Our experience with plant-based food indicates that navigation and the ability to locate the product in-store is crucial. 

60% of shoppers decided to purchase plant-based products before their trip to the store or website; 26% decided at the store or website but before they entered the specific plant-based section.

This article details the third phase of the consumer/shopper journey, building on Demand Generation and Retailer Selection. Ease of Navigation is required for success for both manufacturers and retailers to ensure category sales and profitability growth. 

First, let’s review what manufacturers are doing to better focus their capabilities and resources on plant-based. As we mentioned earlier this year, shoppers may be beginning to think of a product as “healthy” not just because it is plant-based, but because it has specific attributes and ingredients. “Real” food may be a missed opportunity. Several manufacturers seem to agree that plant-based requires more focus. For example: 

—Kellogg is separating into three entities, spinning off its North American cereal and plant-based businesses. The remaining 80% of sales is comprised of the global snacking and frozen businesses. Of the three, plant-based foods is the biggest unknown. But it offers the opportunity for traditional growth with Morningstar Farms, as well as innovation with Incogmeato. This will allow greater focus on product development and retailer execution. 

—ConAgra is opening a new $250 million frozen Bird’s Eye vegetable plant. This is a major investment for a mature category. Vegetables are as real as plant-based gets.

—B&G is forming four separate business units, one of which is frozen/Green Giant, to ensure greater focus on the success they are seeing in plant-based, whether it’s traditional vegetables or new products. 

FOCUS: SHOPPER NAVIGATION

It is important to understand how shoppers approach and navigate their journey to purchase a plant-based product. Cadent’s recent survey of plant-based buyers identified key insights on how consumers navigate.

Most shoppers (60%) decided to purchase plant-based products before their trip to the store or website while 26% decided “while they were at the store or website but before they entered the specific plant-based section.” Only 14% decided “upon arrival at the section or after seeing a display.” It is absolutely critical that plant-based products are top of mind before the shopping process begins. How can you ensure that your outlet is a plant-based destination? 

Next, we explored how shoppers best describe purchasing plant-based alternatives. It is “a routine purchase that I put very little thought into” (28%), is followed by “I typically buy the product that has the best deal” (24%). It is important to note that those who stated routine purchase varied significantly between plant-based milk, a fairly established category at 36%, and plant-based meat, a relatively newer category at 24%. Check out the chart below: 

Our study also evaluated nearly 30 different plant-based product categories and found that the most popular locations varied by product type. Improving navigation to the section is essential for grocers. The data below, based on Cadent research, indicate where shoppers expect to find three popular categories. (Totals add to less than 100 due to “other” responses.) 

The navigation process when purchasing plant-based also differs depending whether it’s in a physical store or online. About 70% of plant-based buyers either purchase in a physical store or pick-up in store. For plant-based milk, this is 80%. The remaining 20-30% rely on home delivery from a retailer or through an intermediary.

Assisting plant-based shoppers in the navigation process is essential for success. More than 90% of these shoppers do most or all of the buying in their household and they typically purchase plant-based products every week. Plant-based is a fairly routine purchase for some, but new shoppers are being attracted to the category and patterns have not been fully established. What’s more, in-store locations vary by retailer. It is essential that manufacturers and retailers focus more on the plant-based navigation process, both online and in-store, to optimize total plant-based sales. If you can’t find it, you can’t buy it! The Cheshire Cat had a great point!

 

 

Don Stuart is a managing partner at Cadent Consulting Group (cadentcg.com), with offices in Wilton, Conn., and Evanston, Ill. He can be reached at don.stuart@cadentcg.com).

Don Stuart

Don Stuart

Don Stuart is managing partner at Cadent Consulting Group (cadentcg.com) with offices in Wilton, Conn., and Evanston, Ill. He can be reached at don.stuart@cadentcg.com.

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