Plant-Based & Dairy-Free presents a huge sales opportunity for wholesalers, with sales of plant-based food & drink already storming +22% (IRI) in the convenience channel, and plenty of headroom for further growth. But the sector still has some way to go if retailers are to grab the share of plant-based that is rightfully theirs – and wholesalers can certainly help, driving their own sales in turn.

Indeed, while only 9% of regular plant-based shoppers currently buy from a convenience store, 85% agree that they would if the right products were available – showing a clear rationale for wholesalers to work with their retail customers in order to capitalise on this opportunity, together.

“The key to driving plant-based category sales in depot is to ensure you are stocking both a core range of SKUs and innovative, demand-driven NPD,” says Tom Kerr, Head of Category Management at Alpro UK & Ireland. “Getting the basics right is certainly the first step to achieving more sales. This can be as simple as wholesalers stocking a selection of the best-selling Plant-Based & Dairy-Free products, which will also result in retail customers growing their sales.”

As the UK’s leading brand in Plant-Based & Dairy-Free, accounting for 64% (IRI) of all value sales in the impulse channel, Alpro provides a ‘one-stop shop’ for plant-based – with ongoing NPD and innovation, and a particular focus on food-to-go.

Alpro recommends wholesalers stock a selection of best-sellers, such as Alpro 1l drinks – including Alpro Oat No Sugars drink and Alpro Soya Original drink. On top of that, offering Alpro’s food-to-go options – such as Greek Style alternative to yogurt pots and Caffe Cup drinks can provide wholesalers, and their retail customers, the opportunity to tap into the growing demand for plant-based on-the-go.

“Of course, it’s also important for wholesalers to stay live to NPD that can encourage existing plant-based shoppers to buy cross-range and entice new shoppers into the sector – for example, our new Alpro Chocolate Praline Hazelnut drink,” says Kerr. “This on-the-go drink ticks the box when it comes to health and taste – two of the key drivers into the category – so it’s an ideal option for retailers to stock alongside our core range to encourage incremental sales.”

“In the wholesale channel, the plant-based journey is very much evolving, so it’s crucial to merchandise correctly and create a dedicated plant-based fixture to make this category as easy as possible for retailers to navigate in depot. As retailer understanding about plant-based continues to develop, we recommend, where possible, to dual-site our UHT drinks in both the chiller and in ambient for maximum visibility to ensure these products are accessible in high footfall fixtures,” Kerr says.

Daisy Swiers, UK Country Manager at Califia Farms, comments: “Plant Based Fluid Dairy, with Veganuary being a key event driving awareness and household penetration. This January, 2 in 3 shoppers tried vegan or vegetarian alternative products.”

Califia Farms Oat Barista Blend is the #2 oat barista product in the UK and fastest growing oat barista brand. With only 2g of sugar per 100ml, the product is designed to perfectly complement the flavour of coffee. In almond, Califia’s Unsweetened Almond Drink is the fastest growing and is now the #2 brand in total grocery.

Califia is expanding on its oat range and offering consumers more choice, with a Vanilla Oat Drink launching in April and Original Iced Coffee with Oat launching in July.

Califia is now the #3 brand in Total Dairy Alternatives with growth of 49.5% MAT 2021. Within Dairy Alternative Drinks, Oat is leading the way with +118% Growth* YoY, ‘Barista’ is now a £42m category and growing ahead of total Oat and Almond Milk Sales and 163%. Take Home Plant Based Coffee has surged over lockdown growing +42% and Califia holds 33% share of this category as the #1 brand.

“The bulk of category sales are coming from oat, almond and barista products which are in all in growth,” says Swiers. “Soya is losing share in the long term as consumers are choosing other dairy alternatives as their favourites. Other niche types such as hazelnut are only 5% of category sales. In coffee, take home products such as Califia’s Cold Brew with Almond 750ml range are driving growth of the category.”

This year Califia is supporting its brands with marketing across social media, digital advertising and an out of home campaign.

“Focus on growing categories – oat, almond, “barista” and plant-based coffee,” Swiers advises wholesalers. “Offer choice – consumers are looking for a variety of products to suit different need states and usage occasions.”

Anne-Marie Cannon, Senior Brand Manager for Cooks&Co at the brand’s owner and distributor RH Amar, comments: “The big news for Cooks&Co at the start of 2021 is the addition of a raft of new products and formats that tap into what are likely to be two of the biggest trends in 2021 – the continuing rise of plant-based, and a growing demand for summer inspiration as people are likely to fire up the BBQ in even greater numbers than they did in 2020.”

Following on from the successful launches of plant-based meat substitutes Young Green Jackfruit and Banana Blossom, Cooks&Co has just introduced Lotus Root as the latest addition to its plant-based line up (RRP: £2.75, 400g).

The stem of the lotus plant, Lotus Root has a mild sweet nutty flavour and crunchy texture making it perfect for adding to stir fries and curries. It’s also ideal in salads, soups, and stews, or even straight out of the can. It is Vegan Approved and contains no artificial flavours, colours, or preservatives.

Also new for 2021 are Tri-Colour Jalapenos (RRP: £2.40, 290g), adding a pleasant and zesty heat to food. They are traditionally used in Mexican cuisine, particularly in tacos, quesadillas, nachos, and salsas, but are perfect on pizzas and ideal for adding spice and colour to a whole array of dishes. This product is also Vegan Approved.

Cooks&Co is adding to its range of olives ahead of summer with three olive products – Whole Kalamata Olives (RRP: £2.69, 250g), Mixed Pitted Greek Olives (RRP: £1.99, 240g), and Green Halkidiki Olives stuffed with Sun-Dried Tomatoes (RRP: £2.79, 230g). All these olives are Vegetarian Society approved.

With the number of vegans in the UK estimated to have increased by 419,000, or 62%, in the past year, it’s clear that the growing trend towards veganism looks unlikely to slow down any time soon, especially among younger consumers, as well as those looking to cater for family members following a plant-based diet.

“But this isn’t just about a trend towards pure veganism, it’s also about the many more shoppers who are also looking to reduce their meat intake by choosing easy to cook and convenient alternatives that can help them make a difference, including for reasons of health or sustainability,” adds Cannon.

Cooks&Co introduced two ‘meat replacement’ ingredients in 2020 – Jackfruit and Banana Blossom (RRP: £2.25, 400g each).

Carrying the Vegetarian Society’s ‘Vegan Approved’ marque, Cooks&Co Jackfruit has been helping to lead the charge for an ingredient that is fast becoming on the UK’s top selling types of canned fruit – now 11th biggest with 1.3% value share (MAT) compared with just 0.7% a year ago (Nielsen).

Clocking up sales of £1.66m growing +131% YoY, Jackfruit is an incredibly versatile ingredient as a meat replacement and is a perfect addition to a variety of dishes, in particular thanks to its ability to absorb flavour. This makes shredded pieces of jackfruit perfect for creating meat free fajitas and pull Jackfruit burgers.

By contrast, Banana Blossom – launched in summer 2020 – is the perfect addition to a variety of meat free dishes, as well as an incredible fish replacement, in particular coated in batter, shallow fried, and then served alongside some homemade fries and tartare sauce.

“Ultimately, though, the point is that these products are now proving popular with a wide base of shoppers who are looking for healthy, more sustainable alternatives to meat and fish. It’s also clear that many shoppers see plant-based as a way to kick-start a healthy eating diet by reducing the amount of meat that they are eating,” says Cannon.

“Thanks to products like Cooks&Co Jackfruit and Banana Blossom, we’re also managing to dispel two of the biggest myths around following a vegan or plant-based diet – that it’s too expensive and too restrictive.

Therefore, it’s important for brands and retailers to educate consumers on the usability of these products, which we are doing through our digital and social channels, which include dozens of recipe suggestions.”

Sam Thomas, Head of Category, Upfield UK&I, comments: “One of the main consumer trends that we have seen, is an increase in consumers looking for more plant-based options. Data from November 2020 reveals more than 1.5 million new shoppers are buying plant-based dairy products.”

Health is the main consideration for consumers when they select products, as it has been revealed that 25% more shoppers are influenced by health during their grocery shop (Nielsen). This is closely followed by sustainability as the secondary factor.

“It has also been revealed that consumers’ financial security is a key concern when shopping, with value for money and promotions being critical moving forwards,” adds Thomas. “Wholesalers should think about the most effective pricing strategy especially on their best sellers to maximise rate of sale.”

The Flora brand is up by +17% and I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter has increased by +13%. These are Upfield’s leading SKU’s within wholesale. Stork also had an excellent year due to the baking boom that occurred during lockdowns, with sales up +28.4%.

Elmlea, the No.1 selling cream-alternative is available in Single and Double variants, having had a stellar year with value sales +26.9%. The plant-based variant ‘Elmlea Plant’ which launched in 2019 has also seen stellar performance alongside the core portfolio +657% and this brings new incremental shoppers into the cream alternatives category making it a must stock for wholesalers who want to captialise on the current accelerating vegan trends.

“One way for wholesalers to maximise sales is by having an online platform that retailers can easily navigate, especially off the back of the phenomenal growth online has seen in 2020,” adds Thomas. “A digital platform is key to showcasing the full range of opportunities that are available to the consumer via the retailer, to drive both footfall and growth in their stores.”

“It’s also really important to be aware and stay on top of consumer trends and cater to a wide range of products that will cover all shopper missions – and also to help your retailers understand what these shopper missions are,” continues Thomas.

For example, plant-based dairy is +27.1% in the past year alone so is becoming ingrained into consumer shopping behaviour now more than ever before.

Upfield ensures that it has the correct ranges and pack sizes available to meet consumer demand and to cover different shopper missions. It also supports retailers with in-store activity, as well providing category insight to help reach optimum sales with all its key wholesale partners.



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