From hot dogs to cheesecake, recent innovation has ensured that there is a plant-based option for even the pickiest of eaters. The definition used to determine qualification for the Plant Based Foods Association’s (PBFA’s) Certified Plant Based Seal is a finished product consisting of ingredients derived from plants that include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, seeds and/or legumes (peas, beans, pulses, etc.), as well as fungi and algae that contain no animal-derived ingredients. Our goal is to create an inclusive seal that appeals to both fully plant-based shoppers as well as flexitarians who may or may not identify as vegan. This classification differs from items that fall under the definitions, as plant-based foods that qualify for the Certified Plant Based Seal must be finished plant-based products traditionally produced from animal ingredients. The certification helps the shopper to easily identify a product that is an alternative to an animal product. 

Plant-based food sales are growing faster than ever, increasing 27% in 2020 with the market growing to $7 billion.

  • Plant-based sales grew 43% in the past two years.
  • The plant-based food market is forecasted to be worth $74.2 billion by 2027
  • There are now more than 30 plant-based food categories across the store.
Three year plant-based foods dollar sale projections

With this increase in customer demand and an influx of new offerings, important questions come to mind: where should all of these new and exciting products be placed? How can we ensure consumer confidence in the meaning of the words “plant-based”? How do retailers make room for all of these new products that consumers are looking for? 

At PBFA we know exactly what should be certified as “plant-based,” and where these products belong to make it easier for shoppers to find what they seek.

Merchandising plant-based products

As plant-based foods have continued to rise in popularity, the decision to integrate plant-based food items throughout the marketplace has become a far easier decision for retailers than it was just a few short years ago. Gone are the days when the only shoppers purchasing plant-based items were fully plant-based eaters. As PBFA’s 2020 retail sales data shows, shoppers increasingly put a mix of animal-based and plant-based items in their carts, and placing all plant-based items in one section makes less and less sense. 

Plant-based meat, for example, belongs in the animal-based meat section. Plant-based eggs? With the animal-based eggs. Plant-based cheese? Yes, with all cheese. Having a separate plant-based foods section grouped together has become unrealistic for mainstream and plant-based shoppers as it significantly limits space for new and exciting options.

Rather than limiting shelf space for plant-based foods in specialty food sections, data and research clearly demonstrate that plant-based foods should be placed where consumers expect them to be–in the same section where they would usually shop. Our study with Kroger found that plant-based meat sales increased in the test stores versus control stores by 23% when placed in a three-foot set within the meat department. In the Midwest region, the increase was much higher at 32%.

Kroger plant-based aisle

This quantitative data is backed by responses from interviews with Kroger shoppers, who presumed that plant-based meats would be in the meat department or near their animal-based meat counterparts, explaining that the placement made plant-based alternatives easier to find and purchase. Additionally, shoppers expressed how “excited and impressed” they were about the many options in the plant-based meat set in the meat section. 

“It definitely makes it easier; it’s all right here.”

– Kroger Shopper

Proper integration allows space for plant-based options to grow, diversify, and increase sales. This is exemplified in the plant-based milk category across retailers, which has been integrated into the milk section and accounts for a 15% share of total milk sales, and a 45% share in the Enhanced Natural channel (of the 1850+ natural and specialty stores exclusively reporting to SPINS). With new varieties of delicious milk alternatives entering the market alongside the many varieties that already exist, we expect plant-based milk sales and share to continue to grow significantly in the next year and beyond. This is bolstered by the fact that a significant portion of the population has some degree of lactose intolerance. In fact, in 2020, plant-based milk grew 20.4%, four times faster than the previous year. 

Why is this important to retailers? 

Our 2020 retail sales data shows that shoppers of plant-based foods have higher household income, are increasingly diverse, and purchase plant-based foods based on taste and texture, and to support their health, as well as the environment and animal welfare. Plant-based shoppers are strongly comprised of Millennials and Gen Z, so now is the time to build and grow loyalty. Plant-based shoppers are valuable to the retail industry and provide a strong opportunity for retailers and brands to increase their bottom line. 

Introducing plant-based certifications

This booming increase in plant-based food sales has led to the phrase “plant-based” being highlighted on packaging to draw the eyes of interested shoppers in this category. In fact, plant-based claims on packages increased 148% in the past two years. With PBFA’s Certified Plant Based seal, we’re working to ensure consumer confidence in the meaning of these claims. 

In 2018, PBFA and NSF International launched the Certified Plant Based seal program, the first plant-based food certification, which provides shoppers the assurance that food contains no animal-derived ingredients and is made from plants. At this pivotal point of growth in the industry, it has never been more important to ensure standardized labeling across the category. Brands that are Certified Plant Based are up 37% in sales, according to our UPC sales of certified products, which is outpacing all other plant-based food growth sales by almost one and a half times!

Process of getting Certified Plant Based     

Certified Plant Based products are independently verified by NSF International and must pass its review before the label can be used. Independent verification provides a higher level of objectivity and integrity to claims. You can read more about the verification process on NSF’s website here

Products eligible for certification include meat, egg, and dairy alternatives and similar foods that do not contain any animal-derived ingredients. Ingredients that are not of plant or animal origin, such as vitamins, minerals, flavor, and colors, are allowed as long as individually or combined they do not exceed 10% of the product formula. You can view a list of CPB products here, and apply for the CPB program by reaching out to or connecting on RangeMe Services here.

Plant-based meats

The way and frequency at which consumers shop for plant-based products is changing. The merchandising of plant-based products in retail stores (and on the e-shelf) in combination with plant-based certifications is an important part for the success of the plant-based industry. The Plant Based Foods Association is helping change the way in which the array of plant-based foods are merchandised through certifications on product packaging and location of products in stores to improve brand sales, retailer profit margins, and consumer satisfaction. At PBFA we are committed to continuing our work across the country to help brands, the industry, our retailers, and consumers succeed in growing plant-based foods!

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