Recent research by think tank Questionmark on behalf of ProVeg International has revealed that some plant-based products are now more affordable than their animal counterparts in six supermarkets out of the seven major Dutch retailers.
The research compared prices of 12 standard products, including vegetarian meatballs, plant-based cheese, and yogurt, at supermarkets Albert Heijn, Aldi, Dirk, Jumbo, Lidl, Plus, and Ekoplaza. The results show that in nearly every case, the cheapest plant-based option was even more affordable than the most economical animal-based counterpart.
Up to 20% less
At supermarket Ekoplaza, the savings on a shopping basket including vegetarian meatballs, plant-based butter, and vegetarian shawarma can be as high as €9.66, amounting to a 20% discount.
Jumbo and Lidl also offer attractive prices, with plant-based options being €3.89 and €3.11 more affordable, respectively. Dirk was the only supermarket where a plant-based grocery basket costs €0.18 more than its animal-based counterpart.
While the research shows that the overall prices for plant-based groceries are lower than before, there are still variations within product categories. Plant-based dairy products, including cottage cheese and yogurt, are more expensive than cow dairy products: 500g of plant-based cottage cheese costs between €0.75 and €1.50 more, while the price of 500g of plant-based yogurt ranges between €0.60 and €1.45 more.
“Interestingly, the plant-based alternatives for cheese are generally cheaper at almost all supermarkets,” adds ProVeg International.
Tipping point for plant-based foods
As the food awareness organization explains, this is a significant departure from the scenario in 2022 when a previous study found that plant-based groceries, except plant-based minced meat, burgers, and chicken pieces, were more expensive than animal-based products.
The price difference between animal and plant-based options has been gradually shrinking, becoming a tipping point in favor of sustainable choices that benefit price-sensitive consumers. This is partly because many EU retailers have been actively reducing the prices of plant-based products to achieve price parity between animal and plant-based products.
Jumbo, for example, dropped the prices of its private-label plant-based meat range last November to match the price of similar animal products. Following Jumbo’s initiative, Pablo Moleman, co-founder at ProVeg Netherlands, emphasized the importance of addressing the pricing of dairy alternatives.
“It is difficult to explain that a pack of soy yogurt is almost twice as expensive as cow yogurt, while soy milk and cow’s milk are equally expensive,” he said.
On the other hand, Lidl has taken a different approach by introducing bulk packs of meat alternatives, offering consumers a price advantage typically associated with animal products. The supermarket has also displayed the top four best-selling meat alternatives alongside the meat products.
“Previous studies show that price is a major obstacle for consumers to choose plant-based products more often. Because plant-based shopping is now cheaper in the major supermarkets, there is no longer a financial barrier to making the sustainable choice. This is an important tipping point for the protein transition,” Moleman states.
Promotional policies vs targets
In addition to the price-parity measures, supermarkets have set goals to shift the balance between animal and plant-based proteins in their sales.
Despite these targets, promotional policies still heavily favor animal-based products. According to Questionmark’s Superlist Green, 80% of the protein-rich products focus on meat, fish, and cheese, thus contradicting the supermarkets’ aspirations.
“The least supermarkets can do is align their promotional policies with their own targets: at least 60% of the offers on high-protein products for plant-based and a maximum of 40% for animal-based,” Moleman argues.