Kroger’s plant-based chicken launch signals a surge in alternative protein retail expansion

Kroger is launching several new products in its Simple Truth Plant Based line, signaling a broader trend of alternative protein expansion in retail.
Emerge plant-based chick'n grind

Kroger has announced it is launching dozens of new products—and entire product categories—within its Simple Truth Plant Based line, seeking to provide customers with tasty and affordable plant-based versions of the foods they know and love. By increasingly launching new plant-based meat, egg, and dairy products for their private-label brands, retailers like Kroger are capitalizing on increasing plant-based food consumption.

For Kroger, which launched a series of Simple Truth Plant Based meat, dairy, and meal prep products in 2019 and 2020, plant-based own-brand products are part of a critical innovation strategy. “We believe that everyone deserves to have access to fresh, affordable and delicious food, no matter who you are, how you shop or what you like to eat, and we will continue to innovate and inspire our selection of products to deliver on that very promise for our customers,” said Brad Studer, Kroger’s senior director of Our Brands.

Kroger simple truth emerge line of products

Kroger’s Simple Truth Plant Based line is part of a growing trend of plant-based expansion.

Kroger’s launch of this new line of products, which includes Simple Truth Emerge Chick’n patties and grinds, is a significant development in the availability of affordable, fresh, center-of-plate alternative proteins in the meat aisle. This move is part of the next-generation plant-based products beyond the beef burger. According to IRI, among those who do not currently consume plant-based protein, shoppers who purchase conventional chicken are the most likely to start buying plant-based meat. And new plant-based chicken products have been flying off the shelves overseas at Tesco and in regional chains, as well as making waves in restaurant chains.

In addition to Emerge Chick’n, Kroger is expanding plant-based dairy and meal prep options, with almond milk yogurt, plant-based cheese slices and shreds, probiotic almond drink, oat milk ice cream, ranch and Caesar salad dressings, and plant-based queso also hitting the shelves.

“We’re thrilled to see Kroger double down on plant-based foods with the expansion of its Simple Truth Plant-Based collection,” said Caroline Bushnell, GFI’s director of corporate engagement. “Kroger is really driving own-brand innovation forward with products like their new Simple Truth Emerge Chick’n. As the nation’s largest grocer, Kroger’s commitment to plant-based meat and dairy is a clear signal that plant-based is a mainstream way of eating that is here to stay.”

Plant-based oatmilk frozen dessert in a bowl

This movement is part of a larger trend in the rapid growth of plant-based foods. According to GFI SPINS market research, in 2019, plant-based food sales grew 11 percent to $5 billion. Private-label plant-based foods grew at a similar rate—12 percent to $325 million in 2019. Private-label plant-based refrigerated meat is growing particularly rapidly, at 72 percent in 2019, overtaking private-label plant-based frozen meat in total dollar sales.

This proves out a paradigm shift in both product innovation and merchandising strategies, with refrigerated plant-based meat increasingly shelved in the refrigerated meat case. Indeed, GFI’s first-of-its-kind Good Food Retail Report found that leading U.S. grocery stores stock 35+ plant-based private-label meat, egg, and dairy SKUs, including 12+ in the plant-based meat category. Notably, 74 percent of the banners GFI benchmarked offer at least one plant-based private-label meat product on the shelf, many shelved in the meat aisle.

Consumers are increasingly adopting plant-based products.

Consumer demographics are continuing to highlight the plant-based opportunity. 34 percent of meat-eating millennials eat four or more plant-based dinners each week, demonstrating that plant-based is a widespread trend with adoption beyond vegans and vegetarians.

With millennials exhibiting the highest adoption rates of private-label products, retailers can fulfill consumer preferences by offering an array of branded and own-brand lines that include plant-based meat, eggs, and dairy.

Especially during Covid-19, customers are looking for affordable, easy meal prep. Fresh plant-based meat sales growth has massively outperformed fresh animal-based meat sales growth during Covid-19. And private-label is presenting a sizable opportunity—at least 30 percent of consumers who try new private-label products during Covid-19 plan to stick with them.

Other retailers are recognizing the plant-based opportunity.

Kroger is not alone in recognizing the plant-based opportunity. Target is launching new products as part of its private-label Good & Gather line, including plant-based beef patties, chicken tenders, and meatless crumbles. Wegmans, which offers a variety of private-label plant-based meat and dairy products, has also added plant-based random weight patties.

Brand innovation is also seeing continued momentum, with new launches from Daring, Beyond Meat, Impossible Foods, Dr. Praeger’s, and Pure Farmland expanding consumer choice at retail. As part of the broad spectrum of product innovation and portfolio development, both branded and private-label product and category launches can play a role in expanding the availability of plant-based foods.

Plant-based attracts valuable consumers.

As name brands and premium-priced products have long dominated plant-based foods, private-label collections present an additional opportunity to attract the valuable and growing plant-based consumer segment. Kroger’s expansion of their private-label plant-based line not only spotlights the growing role of alternative proteins in the shopping cart, it also demonstrates the investment of the largest food companies in the world to ensure customers have the choice to put a tastier, more sustainable, and more just meal on their plate. 

For further insights into alternative proteins in the retail segment, watch GFI’s webinar on demand: Plant-Based Strategies for Retail: An overview of leading plant-based assortment, merchandising, and marketing tactics at top U.S. retailers. And for a deeper dive, download the Good Food Retail Report.

Images courtesy of The Kroger Co.


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Emma Ignaszewski oversees the corporate engagement team’s industry intelligence and initiatives to catalyze corporate innovation that will radically transform the food system and deliver alternative protein products that compete on the key drivers of consumer choice: taste, price, and convenience. Areas of expertise: alternative protein market landscape, research & analysis, strategy, marketing & communications, alt protein sustainability & climate impacts.