Plant-Based Foods: Price-Cutting Amid Product Proliferation

The plant-based meat substitute category is in full competitive cook-off mode, with Impossible Foods cutting its wholesale pricing by 15% in the face of growing competition from legacy food companies and private-label products from Kroger, Cargill and Sysco.

Impossible’s pricing announcement this morning coincided with the postponement of Natural Foods Expo West in Anaheim, California, in response to the spread of COVID-19. Some 3,600 companies had hoped to have attendees sample their products—many of them plant-based—at the expected gathering of more than 86,000 industry professionals.

The price cut by Impossible averages 15% on the company’s current U.S. foodservice products. It’s an acknowledgement of the premium retail and restaurant pricing that has typified plant-based meat offerings—plus a reflection of the cost of production and the scale needed to price more competitively against much cheaper meat products.



In a release, Impossible cited “manufacturing efficiencies and greater economies of scale” as drivers of the price reduction.

According to Euromonitor International, in 2019 Kellogg’s Morningstar brand led the U.S. meat substitutes category, with 25% of retail dollar sales. Behind Kellogg were Conagra Brands (Gardein), 15.2%; Beyond Meat (Beyond Meat), 14.5%; Maple Leaf Foods (Field Roast), 7.1%; and Monde Nissin (Quorn), 4.9%.

Price competition is expected to continue, given the entry of meat substitutes from retailers and other food providers.

Last year, beef, chicken and pork marketing behemoth Tyson Foods launched Raised & Rooted, a line of plant-based and blended—made of both meat and plants—products. In a January earnings call, Tyson director and CEO Noel W. White declared that Raised & Rooted is “only the beginning of our plan to build the world's leading portfolio of plant-protein products.”

Last month, Kroger announced the introduction of Emerge plant-based meats under the retailer’s Simple Truth brand. The previous month, Kroger launched a merchandising test with the Plant Based Foods Association in 60 stores that included plant-based deli slices and roasts.

Food distribution giant Sysco entered the game this month with the debut of several plant-based protein items under the Sysco Simply brand. One is a ready-to-prepare ingredient containing a blend of oats, beans and peas that can replace meat in any dish, according to the company.

On a similar note, food distributor Cargill recently launched private-label plant-based patties and ground products that its food service and retail clients can market under their own brand names.

“Never have we seen a movement evolve so quickly from fringe food group interest to mass adoption like we are seeing in the evolution of plant-based foods and lifestyles,” Kiley Stone, associate culinary director at Boulder-based brand consultancy and creative agency Sterling Rice Group, tells Marketing Daily. “This includes a growing spectrum of foods and new sub-categories of products all under the plant-based umbrella.”

That spectrum was going to be on full display at Natural Foods Expo West this year.

Moss Landing, California-based Sweet Earth was set to unveil 13 plant-based products, including deli slices that mimic the color, texture and taste of deli meats, along with jerkies made with seitan, a.k.a. hydrated gluten.

Del Monte planned to sample its new Veggieful Pocket Pies, whose iterations include plant-based Philly cheesesteak and spinach artichoke parmesan.

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