- Kroger is adding more than 50 new products to the plant-based line that it launched last September, the grocer announced Wednesday. By the end of 2020, Simple Truth Plant Based will include more than 75 foods and beverages, including non-dairy cheeses, oat milk ice cream and almond milk yogurts.
- The grocer also announced the launch of an alternative to fresh chicken patties and grinds under its Simple Truth Emerge line. The new "Chick'n" products contain up to 21 grams of wheat-based protein and will be sold in store meat departments.
- Kroger’s expansion of its Simple Truth brand shows the grocer is pushing forward the plant-based protein trend as meatless offerings become more common at grocery stores.
Since Kroger launched its plant-based private label line last year, demand for meat alternatives has continued to grow. Sales have soared during the pandemic as consumers turn to them as a healthier alternative and as the meat industry suffered from processing plants shutting down due to worker illnesses. Some grocers have restricted meat and poultry purchases to prevent supply shortages.
Kroger started Simple Truth Plant Based last September with about 20 products and in January kicked off its Emerge sub-brand, which focuses on meatless patties and ground meat and poultry alternatives.
Kroger says that the Emerge Chick’n products, which don’t have any GMOs, dairy or soy, have the same taste, texture and sizzle as chicken and will be sold in the packaged meat case. Data released this summer by Kroger and the Plant Based Foods Association found that plant-based meat sold 23% better when placed in the meat section in stores.
Dairy-free products are a particular focus of the line extension, with almond milk, alternative cheeses and oat milk ice cream set to appear on shelves and in chilled departments. Cauliflower dips, ready-to-eat chocolate chip cookies and creamy salad dressings are also among the brand’s offerings touted in Wednesday's announcement.
Altogether, the Simple Truth brand exceeded $2.5 billion in sales last year, Stuart Aitken, Kroger's chief merchant, said in the announcement. Kroger expects the consumer demand for the plant-based collection to increase in 2021 and future years, he said.
Simple Truth Plant Based will compete for sales alongside a growing assortment of local and national brands. Startups like Beyond Meat have rolled into stores while established brands like Nestlé and Cargill have developed their own alternative meat products. Kroger is hedging its bets, however: The grocer earlier this year introduced the Impossible Burger to hundreds of stores and added it to its Home Chef meal kit menu.
As meatless brands multiply, grocers are increasingly turning to their own labels to expand their plant-based offerings, pitching them as affordably priced products. Last September, Albertsons added organic plant-based meals when expanding its frozen entrees brands. Earlier this year, Trader Joe's unveiled its own plant-based burger.