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Between 2020 and 2021, digital wholesaler ShelfNow saw a 156% increase in sales of vegetarian products and a 150% increase in sales of vegan products. Moreover, a recent report from Mintel has also found that UK sales of meat-free products will be expected to be in excess of £1.1bn by 2024. With a growing number of consumers now looking to incorporate more plant-based alternatives into their diet, now is the time to consider if a plant-based deli or butchery counter could work for your business.
Why delis should jump on the plant-based trend
According to Ana Purcaroiu, senior consumer analyst at GlobalData, “People will increasingly base their choice of retailer on the availability of plant-based products, as GlobalData’s survey revealed that 21% of UK millennials claim that the availability of special dietary products is the most influential factor when deciding where to do their grocery shopping.
And while you might think that your customers aren’t interested in vegan products if they eat meat, as Emma Bowe, food director at Veganly Deli, a plant-based deli meat and cheese producer, explains: “If a meat eater doesn’t eat vegan products, you’re guaranteed one of their family members do, so the more inclusive you are at your deli counter, the higher likelihood more locals will shop with you over your competitor down the road. That will show up in your profits at the end of the month.”
While it might seem like a daunting task, Emma explains it can actually be a stress-free process: “A deli can start by scanning their current supplier catalogue and stocking some vegan cheese and meat products. If your distributor does not stock any, it’s time to find another that does - the vegan sector has been exploding since Covid 19 took hold. To be ahead of the game, you need to expand your offering.
“You can place the products right beside the meat and cheese in your current deli counter - don’t be afraid, there are no hard and fast rules. In fact, you’ll see the big supermarket chains doing exactly that to get more sales - placing the vegan products right beside the meat products!”
Philip Linardos, CEO and Co-founder of ShelfNow explained that independent retailers should firstly “familiarise themselves with the sheer breadth of plant-based products that are out there to find their favourites. They should certainly be looking into offering as many plant-based products as they can because consumer demand is rapidly increasing and all customers are potential customers for the plant-based category due to the ongoing popularity of meat-free diets.
He also recommended that fine food retailers begin with familiar plant-based alternatives to get started. “Some popular and widely available products include meatless meatballs, meat-free chicken, meat-free chorizo and vegan cheese. At ShelfNow, we have seen our retailer partners successfully cross-sell these products with pasta, sauces and other ingredients.”
How to entice customers to give plant-based a go
You might think that encouraging your customers to try your new plant-based products will be an uphill struggle, but there are plenty of ways to ease them in and get them excited about meat-free options.
Emma Bowe suggests: “Put a sign in your window stating you now stock vegan meat and dairy options. Post the same on your social media channels. Have a member of staff give out vegan samples at lunchtime on your busiest day. Run an introductory discount on your new vegan products for a limited time to incentivise people to try them. You’d be surprised how many of your customers seem like they’d bawk at the mention of vegan meat, but these are often the most curious ones that will buy!”
Karry Meyrick, owner of Karry’s Deli in South Wales mirrored these ideas: “Taster day events have worked well for me. Once people have touched, tasted and tried it they are more likely to potentially buy it. Some items aren’t what people expect to look like - but looks are deceiving, it’s all in the taste and mouth-feel. Make it more affordable, create offers, and discount points. Give lots of variety too. Offer online orders and deliveries.”
Philip added: “Retailers shouldn’t be seen to ‘preach’ and instead should engage customers with the best tasting products from the counter. Great packaging and presentation, environmental benefits and brand stories are all important but if a product doesn’t taste and look great, repeat purchases won’t follow.”
Moreover, your customers will be more open to trying new things if you make it interesting and entertaining. Emma explains: “Meat eaters can feel a bit overwhelmed by vegan products that are political and tied to hot topics. We like to have a bit of fun and lighten the mood by giving our meat’s names like smokey “choreezo” and Black Forest “haam”.
Whether you decide to start stocking a few new vegan alternatives to traditional meat and dairy items or set up a whole plant-based deli counter, there are plenty of benefits to jumping on the plant-based trend. It’s time to reap the rewards!