Vegetarian Shoppers Prefer Mainstream Grocers to Whole Foods Market, New Analysis Shows

Vegetarian Shoppers Prefer Mainstream Grocers to Whole Foods Market, New Analysis Shows
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Vegetarian grocery shoppers prefer traditional grocery stores over specialty stores like Whole Foods Market and Sprouts, according to a new market analysis of American shopping habits carried out by inMarket, a California-based marketing platform.

The analysis assembled data for the first five months of this year based on a combination of purchase history and visitation patterns. It found that Vons, an Albertsons-owned chain based in Southern California and Southern Nevada, was the most popular among vegetarian-leaning consumers.

“In order to be vegetarian, you don’t need to spend your ‘whole paycheck’ at a specialty grocer,” reads the analysis.

Publix took second place among vegetarian-leaning consumers, with Sprouts, Kroger, and Whole Foods rounding up the top five. Trader Joe’s pulled up the rear in sixth place.

Plant-based eating is becoming increasingly mainstream, with plant-based meat alternatives becoming ever more available. The analysis noted that Publix and Kroger offer a large selection of meat alternatives; the latter introduced Beyond Meat to its consumers in July 2017. Both are more attractive to cost-conscious shoppers than specialty stores like Whole Foods Market.

“[Plant-based eating] isn’t niche — it’s powerful,” Steven Walton, general manager of research firm HealthFocus International, said during a presentation last year. “Once consumers make this move, few are going to go back.”

Vegetarians and vegans are not the only people seeking out plant-based meat alternatives today. Food Dive notes that people are less likely than ever to sport the label “vegan” or “vegetarian,” but many people are adding meat alternatives to their meals occasionally or frequently, with more than a third of Americans practicing meat-free days and 35 percent of Americans getting their protein from a source other than red meat, according to Mintel.

“With so many traditional stores topping the analysis, one has to believe the crossover appeal of plant-based foods has had an impact on where people shop,” writes Food Dive. “As plant-based options move further into the mainstream, scale should both increase availability and decrease consumer costs.”

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Emily Monaco
Emily Monaco

Emily Monaco is an American food and culture writer based in Paris. She loves uncovering the stories behind ingredients and exposing the face of our food system, so that consumers can make educated choices. Her work has been published in the Wall Street Journal, Vice Munchies, and Serious Eats.