There's no denying that consumers are looking for vegan foods now more than ever. While grocery shopping, 18 percent of United States households now purchase plant-based meat, and more impressively, 77 percent of shoppers have purchased plant-based products in the last six months. Plant-based eating is proving to be a long-lasting trend, and America’s largest grocery chain Kroger projects that it will continue in 2022.

Kroger just released its fourth annual Food Trends Report which predicts what consumers will most likely purchase and demand in the coming year. The 2022 Food Trends Report listed plant-based foods as the leading category, noting that consumers have turned their attention to health-focused and environmentally-friendly brands. The food report highlights how consumers increasingly want products that prioritize sustainability and planet-healthy production methods.

The 'PLANeT-based foods' category emphasizes that plant-based foods may have initially gained popularity due to rising concerns about the climate and health, but now, shoppers look for plant-based indulgences and comfort. Kroger claims that consumers desire plant-based comfort that simultaneously lowers their carbon footprint. Throughout the upcoming year, the grocery giant intends to capitalize on the growing demand and provide customers with a wider selection of plant-based foods. Currently, Kroger carries several plant-based brands including Daring, Wicked Kitchen, Tattooed Chef, and its store-brand Simple Truth.

Beyond health and the environment, shoppers are also looking to save money. An Oxford University study recently found that shoppers could save 30 percent on groceries when switching to a plant-based diet. To shop smarter, customers have started leaning into flexitarian diets, and Kroger aims to serve the customers that want to cook at home for their budget, the environment, and their health.

“Last year, even as many Americans returned to work and eased back into social gatherings, it became apparent that new habits were formed in 2020 and that they are here to stay – including cooking more at home,” Kroger’s senior vice president, chief merchant, and marketing officer  Stuart Aitken said. “Customers are enjoying the convenience, affordability, and just plain fun that comes from preparing meals at home.

“As at-home meals remain a staple, Kroger is proud to provide customers with fresh food options that meet them where they are in the kitchen – whether that’s a fresh heat-and-eat meal on a busy school night or a four-course recreation from your favorite restaurant you’ve missed.”

For plant-based comfort food, Kroger offers an expansive selection that ranges from plant-based fried chicken to dairy-free ice cream. The grocery company is responsive to plant-based consumer behavior, partnering with brands including Slutty Vegan to offer specialty vegan products. The sustainable movement within the grocery chain is indicative of a larger trend amount grocery retailers.

Grocery Stores Go Plant-Based

Grocery giants including Kroger have had to adapt product selections to meet the unprecedented consumer demand. Similarly, Whole Foods Market released a report that highlighted the growth of plant-based food last year. The report – released in May – emphasized the potential growth for specific plant-based categories including vegan artisanal cheese and seafood alternatives. The study found that 48 percent of consumers searched for plant-based products when they visited the store.

“Plant-based is the grocery category to watch right now as brands continue to innovate by using new ingredients and processes that make plant-based products exciting for shoppers,” Senior Global Category Merchant for Plant-Based at Whole Foods Parker Brody said in May. “And in laid-back days of summer, we find that customers are breaking out of their routines and are more open to trying something new, whether they’re longtime vegans or just starting to experiment with plant-based eating. So, expect to see gourmet plant-based cheese alternative spreads at picnics and fish alternatives made from banana blossoms on the grill this season.”

While Whole Foods and Kroger develop their plant-based categories, PlantX opened the country's first completely vegan supermarket. XMarket currently operates four locations across North America with plans to expedite its expansion throughout the United States and Canada. The plant-based storefront caters to the growing vegan consumer base, pushing other major retailers to expand plant-based selections to compete.

Vegan Comfort Food That You Can Make at Home

Plant-based grocery shopping is becoming far easier for the average consumer, but vegan cooking may still feel intimidating to newcomers and flexitarians. Here at The Beet, we serve up mouth-watering recipes which include comfort food dishes that use exclusively plant-based ingredients. Check out some of The Beet's recipes like our Easy Baked Vegan Mac and Cheese, Black Bean Cheeseburger, Spinach Grilled Cheese, and Vegan Cauliflower Nachos to get ahead of the curve as plant-based comfort food becomes more popular among American consumers.

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