With veganism, vegetarianism and flexitarianism growing in the current consumer demographic, grocers have been trying to introduce new and innovative meat alternatives in order to bring in more customers. While Whole Foods is poised as one of the top sources for niche and healthy food items, including vegan and vegetarian options, it’s surprisingly not the top choice for the majority of non-meat eating consumers. In fact, according to inMarket inSights, a market research organization, Whole Foods falls last in their list of the top 5 grocery chains based on their attractiveness to vegetarian-leaning consumers.
The market research firm measured the shopping behaviors of vegetarian-leaning/flexitarian consumers for the first five months of 2018. They found that flexitarians that purchase meat alternatives such as those made by Boca Burger, Morning Star, Quorn and Beyond Meat do not go to expensive and niche stores such as Whole Foods regularly. Instead, this demographic was found to shop at Vons, a grocery chain owned by Albertsons, more than any other grocery store that offers vegetarian options. Surprisingly, second to Vons was Publix, which is a common US grocery chain. Sprouts was third on their list, which makes them the top natural/organic grocery store when compared to Whole Foods and Trader Joes (which fell in at sixth place). The largest grocery chain in America, Kroger, was fourth on inMarket’s list.
This trend is indicative of the flexitarian, vegetarian and vegan diets going mainstream. As common grocers continue to introduce popular meat alternatives under familiar brands such as Beyond Meat at a lower price, they are likely to bring in consumers with diverse diets.
Vons might have an advantage here with their chains spanning Southern California and Southern Nevada, where there is a large population of flexitarian, vegetarian and vegan consumers. With Vons being in a primary location with a variety of vegetarian and vegan food options, it makes sense that they made it to the top of the list. Publix, on the other hand, made it close to the top of this because of their large variety of vegan and vegetarian food options at good prices. The southeastern US grocery chain also has over 1,100 grocery stores, which allows them to have a massive footprint in that region. Kroger is playing a similar game with their expansive reach in the US and variety of vegetarian and vegan food options at low prices.
“As mainstream grocers continue to expand their meatless offerings to a growing percentage of vegetarian shoppers, it will be interesting to see how the typically more expensive Whole Foods handles the competition,” wrote inMarket inSights.
Whole Foods seems to be trying to face the competition with their recent price cuts but unfortunately their prices are still too high for consumers. The natural/organic retailer has even more competition to worry about in the vegetarian/vegan market with Aldi, which is a rapidly growing grocery chain, having recently launched a line of private label vegan products in their stores.
It’s clear to see that grocers see value in meat-alternatives and as this trend continues to become more common, prices of such product are likely to continue to decrease in order for grocers to stay competitive. From the current state of this market, Whole Foods might be in big trouble if they can’t match these lower prices.