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John Ryan

Vegetarian Retail Is Starting to Look Different

At least one grocer is challenging the sector’s notion of “sameness”




SUPERMARKETS SELLING VEGETARIAN food have a certain roughage-meets-unfinished wood and hemp aura and are the preserve of the worthy. Or at least, that’s the way the sector might have been perceived until relatively recently.

Things are changing fast, however, and as evidence of this there is the Billa Pflanzilla (the name comes from the fact that gorillas are large and eat plants) in Vienna. Billa is an Austrian supermarket chain owned by German grocer Rewe, and in the city centre there is a Billa Plus large-format store. This is now joined by the Pflanzilla store, which has a 200-square-meter (roughly 2153 square feet) footprint and is a discrete entity from its adjoining sister.

The point about it is not only is it vegan (there are no dairy-derived products of any kind), but it also happens to look like a supermarket, rather than any kind of homespun emporium boasting preserving jars of items that all look more or less the same. The mid-shop has the usual gondolas and as well as the perimeter chillers and the graphics package featuring gorilla-like images that runs around the upper portion of the walls, there are elements such as refillable beer bottles with alcohol from a local brewery and a nut crusher for “milk.”

In short, this is a small supermarket (it holds around 2500 SKUs) that just happens to have no meat. As such, there is little reason to make it different from what carnivores expect when they wander into their local grocer and it represents, perhaps, the coming wave of non-meat food stores. There is enough about this one to appeal to meat-eaters and maybe even to make them consider shifting their dietary preferences.

Also worth noting is that Billa made the move because a survey it carried out showed that this is an area of the market that is enjoying a considerable upswing – something that cannot be said of many areas of retail currently.






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