For Real, Don’t Segregate Fake Meat

July 23, 2020

Selling it next to the real thing is the most effective strategy.

The Plant Based Meat Association and Kroger recently conducted a study about the best way to merchandise plant-based analogue meat. It concluded that sales rose by as much as 23% when the stuff gets displayed in the meat section, right alongside real meat, as opposed to having a cooler off to itself.

On the face of it, this would appear to be one of those “duh” studies. But in my opinion, it has important implications for the sale of analogue meats and other products.

I’m not quite old enough to remember this directly, but I know that when margarine came on the scene, the butter folks responded with fury, which they channeled into political lobbying. As a result, consumers had to live with all kinds of absurd situations, such as margarine coming with packets of coloring that were supposed to be mixed in to make it yellow, because it was against the law for the manufacturer to color the stuff in the plant.

In the end, this vendetta just made the dairy industry look afraid to compete and generally foolish; yellow-colored margarine is now routinely sold alongside butter. Meat processors and, especially, retailers should follow a similar pattern with analogue meat.

The biggest bugaboo raised in these situations is that consumers will get confused. I suppose that’s possible sometimes. (I once got careless in the supermarket and bought a big bag of unsalted potato chips, which are an abomination with no reason to exist.) But mistakes like that are extremely rare, and when they do occur, they’re just testimony to the effectiveness of the analogue products, at least when it comes to looks.

Tyson Foods and some other big meat processors are getting into plant-based analogues. Even if meat companies don’t go that far, they have to face the reality that the analogues are coming, and they’re probably coming to the meat case.

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