Lidl Boosts Plant-Based Meat Sales by 7% by Putting Them in the Meat Aisle

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Lidl Netherlands has completed a successful pilot experiment by placing plant-based analogues next to meat in stores. The results? A 7% sales growth.

Discount retailer Lidl is continuing its recent efforts to ramp up its vegan product sales, following the lowering of prices from its private-label plant-based range in certain markets.

In the Netherlands, Lidl partnered with the Wageningen University and the World Resources Institute to find the answer to a much-debated question in the plant-based world: does placement matter?

There have been plenty of trials and studies to determine whether putting meat analogues in the conventional meat section has an effect on the sales of vegan products. Some have found that the move boosted purchases of plant-based meat but didn’t decrease the sales of conventional meat, others have discovered a smaller hike for the former, but no effect on the latter.

So there’s been a slight lack of clarity, but the results of Lidl’s pilot couldn’t be much clearer. After placing plant-based meats next to animal-derived meats in 70 of its branches in the Netherlands for six months, the retailer saw a 7% spike in sales of the vegan products.

Visibility, taste and volume were key factors, and Lidl is addressing each of them as it progresses towards its goal of having 60% of its protein sales sourced from plants by 2030.

Lidl promises tastier, healthier meat analogues

lidl vegan
Courtesy: Lidl

While the positive sales impact on meat analogues decreased slightly over time, the overall effect was still significant at the end of the trial, according to Monique van der Meer, a researcher at Wageningen University. “Sales figures for meat products also fell slightly, but this was not significant,” she said.

“During the pilot period, customers were also interviewed in the store and customer cardholders could complete an online questionnaire,” added van der Meer. “This showed, among other things, that most customers generally think the placement of meat substitutes on the meat shelf is a good idea.”

The pilot revealed a clear need for larger quantities of plant-based meat. “We immediately put this into practice. The large packages are now in all our 440 stores,” said Chantal Goenee, sustainability and health advisor at Lidl Netherlands.

The retailer has promised an improvement in the quality of its plant-based meat products by the end of the year, both in terms of flavour and health, which were shown to be important consumption drivers. In fact, an EU-wide survey last year suggested that taste is the most influential aspect pushing people to eat plant-based, with 59% citing it. On the other hand, health is why most are reducing meat intake (45%).

Lidl’s plant-based push has seen it reduce the prices of own-label vegan meat and dairy products to match their conventional counterparts in its German and Belgian stores. In the former, it now also places plant-based analogues in the meat and dairy aisles, following a trial that increased the visibility of its four bestselling meat alternatives.

The results chime with previous research. A 2020 trial by US retailer Kroger and the Plant Based Foods Association (PBFA) revealed that when sold in the meat aisle, plant-based analogue sales rose by 23%, with one consumer explaining that their first thought is that these products will be in the meat section, while another said it makes buying vegan a lot easier.

And in 2021, a UK-wide report by the Institute of Grocery Distribution (IGD) found that 57% of respondents strongly agreed that moving plant-based products into the meat aisle would make it easier for them to follow healthier and more sustainable diets.

Lidl to focus on in-store visibility of plant-based meat

plant based price parity
Courtesy: Lidl Germany

The aforementioned poll also found that nearly half (49%) of Dutch consumers had reduced their meat intake over the previous year. The country comprises 53% meat-eaters, and another 38% who identify as flexitarians or pescatarians.

Meanwhile, supermarkets are their preferred purchase point for meat analogues (59%), and a third of consumers say they’re cutting back on meat for environmental reasons. “If consumers choose more climate-friendly food in the supermarket, it makes a big difference,” said Stientje van Veldhoven, VP and director of Europe at WRI. “The question is how food producers and supermarket chains can respond to such a change as effectively as possible.”

Dutch animal rights charity Wakker Dier has been facilitating this push. One of its campaigns is to get retailers to commit to plant-based proteins making up 60% of protein sales by 2030, in response to the national health guidelines. This is why Lidl has adopted that target. As part of the move, the nine supermarkets involved have pledged to have 50% plant protein sales by next year, and agreed to monitor and publicly report sales data.

Plus, meat sales in Dutch supermarkets have plummeted by 16.4% since 2020, falling 2.3% last year. “This joint research project with Lidl Netherlands and Wageningen University is helping us build scientific evidence on what really works to shift consumer demand, and it’s encouraging to see Lidl responding to the findings,” said van Veldhoven.

“We know from the research that visibility of our meat substitutes is an important factor in the customer’s choice to purchase or try a meat substitute, especially for customers who do not yet purchase meat substitutes,” said Lidl Netherlands’s Goenee. “That is why we will focus even more on this in our stores and marketing in the near future.”

And it’s not just in retail that such interventions have been shown to work. Last September, McDonald’s Netherlands began promoting plant-forward eating by listing its vegan offerings before beef on the menu. It came after a ProVeg International report on fast-food chains stated: “Integrate plant-based options with similar items and list them first, while repeating them in a separately labelled plant-based section. This will nudge consumers to choose more plant-based options while making it easier to navigate the menu.”

And, earlier this month, WRI published an updated version of its foodservice playbook. One of the 18 most promising strategies derived from its analysis of research involved integrating plant-based products into meat sections on menu displays. It received an expert score of 11.04 out of 15 (which was at the higher end), and a ‘promise ratio’ of 5 (the proportion of effective versus ineffective trials).


  • Anay Mridul

    Anay is Green Queen's resident news reporter. Originally from India, he worked as a vegan food writer and editor in London, and is now travelling and reporting from across Asia. He's passionate about coffee, plant-based milk, cooking, eating, veganism, food tech, writing about all that, profiling people, and the Oxford comma.

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