Ruth McLennan, Commercial Director from Dairy Farm Retail Group spoke at the Bridge2Food Summit + Expo Plant-Based Foods and Proteins Asia 2021. She shares her experiences and suggestions on - How to turn the other half of the shop to plant-based?
DFI Group has 10,000 retail outlets in 12 Asian markets and territories. The group is actively looking at expanding its plant-based shelf space. Ruth McLennan, who is also the Board member is a retail transformation agent and is looking at bringing in definitive change towards sustainability.
During her initial days of retail experience in Asia, she visited a few wet markets and came back quite affected. From then to now, she gladly informs about the much-increased demand for plant-based food, especially post-covid due to health reasons. So much so that she feels the Asian retailers are not able to cope with the demand.
Amongst the gaps in retail according to her are the fewer brands in the market not enough to cater to the increasing demand, the insufficient segmentation in supermarkets, and definitely the price factor. “Customers are seeking transformation from us,” she shares.
Despite the demand for plant-based food; there is a long way to go as the products are yet to penetrate the frozen food space. There are challenges to overcome. It is important to understand what the consumers want. And, Data plays a major role in gaining insight. One of the things data indicates is how consumers are not just looking at the alternatives, but safer practices and innovative products. DFI is working towards meeting consumer demands and is collaborating with sustainable companies and start-ups working in the space.
Ruth does talk about cross-merchandising, especially to increase the shelf space for plant-based products, and expand the customer base. “The taste profile and product types that work in Asia are very different. We need collaborations with companies that support this need in order to work together towards the common goal. We work with companies like Cold Storage, Giant, Hero, Market Place, Mercato, Jason’s Deli & Cart,” she informs.
“Due to the pandemic, we have not been able to do many activities. We need to do trials and tastings in order for more people to taste the products. We need to be brave, and come up with initiatives like free recipe cards, sampling etc.,” Ruth shares a few ideas for in-store marketing in order to expand the customer profile.
While Europe and North America are already ahead in plant-based market space, the Asian market is already hugely vegan and vegetarian. With the right product profile, this market need can be addressed, and a newer customer base can be created.