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Fresh is in – at least that’s what Nielsen’s Total Consumer Report, which was released this month, has found. While center-of-the-store edibles saw a higher dollar growth of $2.9 billion than that of the $2.2 billion for fresh and perishables, relative to their overall size, fresh categories are driving outsized growth across the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) in the grocery bricks-and-mortar realm with nearly 49 percent of all dollar growth. With fresh and perishable foods generating more than $177 billion in sales within the past year, it’s clear that this category is on the rise and looking to take center stage. The report, which discusses the current state of the FMCG landscape, can be downloaded in its entirety at http://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/reports/2018/total-consumer-report-june-2018.html

Further proof of the desire for more fresh options is the new partnership between Giant Food and HelloFresh, the second-largest meal-kit provider in the United States, in which the retailer will sell five exclusive meal kits in all 166 of its stores in Maryland, Virginia, Washington, DC and Delaware. “As we look to expand our prepared food items at Giant, the partnership with HelloFresh was a natural fit,” said Tonya Herring, vice president of merchandising at Giant Food. “For customers that may not have as much time to spend cooking at home, these fresh and delicious meal kits are a great convenience option.” Each meal kit, which range from $14.99-$19.99 per kit and take no more than 30 minutes to prepare, contains pre-cut, pre-measured, and pre-washed ingredients and serves two people. The meal kits are currently available in the deli section and consist of five recipe options: chickpea couscous, paprika chicken, peppercorn steak, Mediterranean style chicken, and homestyle meatloaf.

The battle is on! With meat alternatives poised to be the next big thing in food, a lot of companies both big and small are investing in the creation of products meant to challenge the traditional offerings from plant-based options that mimic the taste and feel of real beef to meat grown in a petri dish instead of on a farm. With the $200 billion U.S. meat market on the line, American cattle ranchers are ready for a fight and with good reason. While alternative protein burgers currently represent just six percent of the overall burger category, that number is expected to continue to rise, with a dollar sales growth of almost 21 percent in the past year alone. Plus, with companies like Beyond Meat requiring retailers to place their products in the meat case, the gloves are off. According to Beyond Meat founder Ethan Brown, “We made a rule that if they weren’t going to put it in the meat case, we weren’t going to sell it to them. If they put it in the meat case, they can also put it wherever else they’d like but it definitely has to go in the meat case.” His reasoning behind this is that consumers who are grocery shopping for protein should not have to go out of their way to a different part of the store to access alternative meat options. He continued, “If you have to lure them over into another part of the store into the meat substitutes section – what we refer to as the penalty box – you lose an enormous amount of customers.” To counter what they see as a huge threat to their livelihood, the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association has petitioned the Department of Agriculture to ban any plant-based alternatives from using the words “beef” or “meat” their labels and are asking for similar limitations to be placed on lab grown options. These protests echo those of dairy farmers who have been going through similar issues with the growth of plant-based milk alternatives and who are hoping for the passage of the ‘Dairy Pride Act” which will prevent the use of the word “milk” on any product that does not come from a lactating animal. While I understand where the cattlemen are coming from, and maybe they will get a reprieve with all of the money they put behind lobbying, I think it’s only a matter of time before meat alternatives will get a good share of the retail space and dollars. The growing consciousness of the population over both health-based concerns and the environmental toll of commercially raising cattle will see to that.