Who Is The Plant-Based Shopper?

July 23, 2020
by SPINS Marketing


By now you know that plant-based products are booming. Plant-based sales outpaced overall food sales throughout the beginning stage of lockdown shopping. Retailers are strategizing the best way to attract and retain customers who are exploring this growing channel. 

Has Plant-based Been Growing Even Through COVID-19?

COVID-19’s stock-up and lockdown phase brought 2 million new customers to plant-based category, according to IRI Consumer Network Panel, enhanced with SPINS product attribution. In an 8-week period ending on April 19, these new shoppers spent $41 million on plant-based items that were not part of their regular routine. As powerful as those numbers are, they’re just part of the longer story. 

According to data from IRI Multi Outlet over a 52-week period ending on June 14, natural food and beverage growth (11%) slightly outpaced overall food and beverage (9%). However, the plant-based category grew 22%. 

Shoppers Are Returning

When plant-based sales spiked during the weeks of pantry loading in March, so did all food sales as shoppers grabbed what they could to prepare for a lockdown with no end date. You might have wondered if shoppers were choosing plant-based items out of necessity but would return to their traditional counterparts as shelves filled up again. They did: IRI found that 30% of new (aka pandemic stock-up) customers returned to make another plant-based purchase in subsequent weeks—and they spent more. 

IRI also reveals that during a 4-week period in March, the average new customer made 2 trips to the store and spent $16.34 on plant-based products that were not part of their routine. The 30% who returned during a 4-week period in May once again made 2 trips to the store but spent $19.59. 

Who Is the Plant-Based Customer?

As you think about how you can reach and retain shoppers new to the plant-based market, you’ll want to understand who they are and how they differ from existing shoppers.  

The new buyers—customers who did not make a plant-based purchase in the 52 weeks preceding the start of the pandemic—who came back to make another plant-based purchase in May are the shoppers you have the greatest opportunity to convert. Their demographics at a glance: 

  • Upper Incomes 
  • African American 
  • Generation X 
  • Female head of household who works full-time 
  • White collar manager 
  • Getting started or raising teens

Plant-based options have been growing for a while and the surprising first half of this year accelerated that growth. The data already shows that nearly one-third of these shoppers are returning, and you have a unique opportunity to convert them into long-term buyers with a successful strategy