Plant-based is perhapsthefastest growing segment in natural. It is also one of the more confusing segments from the shopper’s perspective. So, how do you leverage the strength of this growing trend to maximize category sales, increase shopper traffic in your store, and compete more effectively against mainstream threats?

The shopper journey has changed dramatically. Shoppers have virtually unlimited choices when it comes to where they spend their hard-earned money. You never want to invite a customer to shop your competition due to poor merchandising, poor product assortment or poor pricing. Remember that everything is about perception and how your customers measure what’s most important to them.

That said, there is a lot of confusion when it comes to how to merchandise plant-based products. For example, is it meat or is it something else? Or, how do you get milk from a nut? Let’s first focus on the basics. What is the promise of the plant-based products you sell, from the shopper’s perspective? This is where every merchandising conversation should start. What is the specific objective of the plant-based shopper and how do you meet their needs?

There are essentially three different kinds of plant-based shoppers:
  1. Those who already know the benefits of a plant-based diet.
  2. Those who choose to augment their diet by occasionally substituting with plant-based products.
  3. Those who want to experiment or learn more about plant-based foods.
The first group most likely has a good foundational understanding of plant-based eating.This group is less price sensitive because they place a high value in a plant-based diet. They will gladly pay a premium for products that deliver a consistent promise of value that they can trust. Talk to them in the aisle and get to know them. Study this group and strive to understand, in their words, why they are committed to the plant-based diet. This group will give you valuable insights that you can use to help educate groups 2 and 3.

These other two groups should be your primary focus when developing an effective merchandising strategy. In other words, a solid strategy that makes it easy for new shoppers to find and purchase the products they want will benefit all of your shoppers.

To accomplish this, partner with plant-based category leaders—brands with actionable insights to help nurture and educate groups 2 and 3 about the benefits of plant-based products. Leverage their content on your website, in-store signage, and within your community.

Now that you better understand the plant-based consumer, it’s time to focus on the shopper journey with your merchandising strategy.

Begin with what appears in each group’s shopping basket at check out and work backwards. Now connect the dots!

A committed plant-based shopper, group 1, will have complementary products from multiple categories in their market basket. Working backwards, how do you make it easier for the committed plant-based shopper to find the products they want? How can you better merchandise those items to improve their shopping experience? This is your blueprint!

Now, armed with valuable insights about the plant-based consumer, support from your brand community, and your blueprint from group 1, you now have a roadmap to develop a solid merchandising strategy.

Your merchandising strategy needs to provide a trail of breadcrumbs to help guide future plant-based shoppers that are simple and easy to follow. This is how you make the plant-based shopper your top priority.