How Pret ranges plant-based products to drive sales

Date : 31 March 2021

Hannah Skeggs

Nutrition & Scientific Affairs Manager

This article explores the impact of product placement on plant-based sales out-of-home. We’ll look at whether segregation concepts like Veggie Pret work and the impact of providing a vegan restaurant menu.

The article is an abridged version a longer feature first published by our Social Impact team - read the full article, including retail case studies from Tesco and Kroger, here.

A recipe for growth

Plant–based diets are growing, with innovative solutions popping up to meet demand.

55% of UK consumers claim they’re actively reducing or considering reducing their meat intake. Many are motivated by the perception that these diets are healthier (46%), more ethical (45%) or better for the environment (38%)1.

This is not a passing fad. Tesco has recently announced its intention to increase sales of plant-based meat alternatives by 300% by 2025 and since January, Asda has featured dedicated bays for plant-based ambient products in store. My local even has a large Vegan butcher.

One challenge that comes with wide appeal is the struggle to define a target audience. Our Appetite for Change research2 shows people of all ages and demographics are interested in plant-based alternatives, but have different motivators and barriers to purchasing these products. This can make product placement challenging.

So, where might plant-based products fair best on the go and when eating out?

Integration or segregation?

The concept of integrating rather than segregating has been found to benefit plant-based sales in retail and this also applies out-of-home (with a few exceptions). In Menu for change3, the Behaviour Insights team highlighted this as an opportunity that could have a positive impact but was highly feasible.

Don’t put vegetarian options in separate aisles or in boxes on menus, but integrate them with the meat options. This means cafes and retailers should integrate meat and non-meat products by product category, putting veggie burgers with the burgers, and soy/oat milk with the cows’ milk, etc. Restaurants should discard the separate ‘vegetarian’ sections of menus. – Menu for Change

Why does this work?

Studies have shown that placing vegetarian items in a separate box on menus can reduce ordering rates by 56%4 and that having “veggie only” refrigerators in Pret reduced sales compared to integrating products5.

Separating these items makes them feel different. It reinforces that they are ‘designed for vegans and vegetarians’ – a label many don’t associate with. Additionally, when we enter a café or restaurant, we have to make a choice what to eat, often from a large variety of options. Our brain naturally seeks shortcuts and can easily exclude a whole section of products as irrelevant.

Mixing in plant-based options and giving them prime positioning allows the meal to shine rather than a vegan categorisation and would encourage more browsing for those who do not typically eat this type of food. Gregg’s vegan range is a great example of how this can be executed with excitement!

The exception to this is where plant-based becomes an exclusive offering and the key pull. Whilst having segregated veggie fridges in Pret may not have worked, Veggie Pret stores seem to buck the trend. The first Veggie Pret opened as a pop-up experiment back in 2016 and there are now 10 Veggie Pret stores – and an ambition to convert as many as 90 EAT sites into Veggie Prets6. It seems that a store dedicated to segregation can help to create excitement and relevance – especially in London and Manchester, where plant-based diets are popular. Does this fit the trend bucket more than normalising plant-based diets? It’s hard to know...

Top Tips

  • Placement can nudge meat-eaters to try plant-based products and increase sales
  • Many are turned off by vegan and vegetarian labels, associating them with poor taste and lack of personal relevance
  • There is an opportunity to raise curiosity through new products, trials and placement on restaurant menus
  • Cost perception is the biggest barrier, so try not to price these products out of reach
  • Focus on gains, rather than losses. Instead of highlighting the loss of meat, focus on great taste, eating more vegetables and what this means for personal health

References

1 IGD ShopperVista, 2019. Plant based diets: entering the mainstream? Part one. Available to subscribers: https://shoppervista.igd.com/trends/presentation-viewer/t/plant-based-diets-entering-the-mainstream-part-one/i/8859
2 IGD, 2020. Appetite for Change. Available from: https://www.igd.com/social-impact/sustainability/healthy-and-sustainable-diets/appetite-for-change-full-research
3 BIT, 2019. A menu for change. Available from: https://www.bi.team/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/BIT_Report_A-Menu-for-Change_Webversion_2020.pdf.pdf
4 Bacon, L. (2017). Don’t Put Vegetables in the Corner. World Resources Institute
5 Schlee, C. (2017). https://www.pret.co.uk/en-gb/prets-next-experiment/ (no longer accessible)
6 https://www.thegrocer.co.uk/high-street/pret-a-manger-to-reopen-all-its-veggie-pret-stores-this-week/645149.article

Read more about IGD’s Appetite for Change research into healthy and sustainable diets