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Plant-Based Platform Aims To Be ‘The New Way People Shop’

Gone are the days when vegan diets were the purview primarily of radical activists and Bay Area residents. Plant-based eating has become extremely mainstream, with everyone from Burger King to Starbucks offering animal product-free menu items all around the United States. In 2020, the plant-based food market reached $7 billion, 27 percent higher than 2019’s then record-high $5 billion.

“I think [the plant-based trend] is here to stay, and the more people get educated on the space, the larger it will get,” PlantX founder Sean Dollinger told PYMNTS in an interview. “I think COVID had a huge part in this. I find people want to take better care of themselves, seeing what can take place at any time.”

PlantX, a Vancouver-based online platform selling plant-based groceries and meals, gifts and actual plants, “aims to be the digital face of the plant-based community” and has been expanding its platform rapidly, acquiring other plant-based businesses and launching on major marketplaces including Walmart Canada.

Plant-Based At Home

One of the most major initiatives the company has undertaken recently is its new U.S. meal delivery service, announced last week (June 3). Part of the goal of this service, Dollinger said, is to serve customers in markets without as much access to plant-based meals.

“Large cities like LA, Miami, NYC have tons of availability in the plant-based space,” he said. “However, plenty of smaller cities do not have the selection.”

The service is expected to launch in Q3. In announcing the debut, the company pointed to the growing meal delivery market, which is expected to hit $182.3 billion by 2024, growing 4.3 percent each year. Additionally, PYMNTS data find that 80 percent consumers who have been ordering more from third-party delivery services since the start of the pandemic expect to maintain some or all of the changes they have made.

Going Ghost

Along with the announcement of the new delivery service, PlantX also revealed that it will be launching a ghost kitchen in Los Angeles. In addition to being a cost-effective way to fulfill orders, ghost kitchens will also serve as a quick way for PlantX to grow its delivery service into new markets in there is high demand.

“In order to keep up with demand and to cut down delivery times we believe this is a fantastic strategy to lower capex and development times,” said Dollinger. “If we see a certain region is busy we can easily expand with a ghost kitchen.”

The ghost kitchen will operate in partnership with MK Cuisine Global, an international plant-based restaurant chain, which will design the meals and repurpose the ghost kitchen’s leftover ingredients in its restaurants to eliminate food waste.

Let’s Get Physical

In May, the company opened its first brick-and-mortar store, located in Squamish, British Columbia. The store will be a way to educate consumers in a more immersive, interactive way than is possible online.

“We believe companies like Tesla and Apple built stores not as sales centers but as education centers,” said Dollinger. “We are following in their steps.”

He added that, given how “new to the consumer” the plant-based industry is, the company wanted to create “a shopping experience where customers know everything they add to their cart meets the plant-based lifestyle.”

The store launched in a space that PlantX had acquired from a company that operated several environmentally-conscious eateries in the Squamish area, and PlantX estimates that the store will expose 1,000 customers each day to its brand.

The store will offer a physical touchpoint for the brand. As Sam Nazarian, founder and chief executive officer of restaurant company C3 and its parent company SBE Entertainment Group, told PYMNTS in a recent interview, “Ultimately, consumers need to be able to ‘touch’ a digital concept for it to last.”

What’s Next

Dollinger noted that, within the next year, PlantX hopes to be a Nasdaq traded company. He predicts that demand for the company’s plant-based offerings will continue to grow as it continues to “expand the knowledge base and awareness.”

One of the key benefits on which he hopes to educate consumers is how it changes how people feel. He cited himself as an example, saying that before going plant-based he “loved steak more than anyone,” and that “words cannot explain” how much better he has felt since switching to a plant-based diet.

One recent survey of 8,500 vegans found that health is a motivating factor for 53 percent, behind environmental concerns, which motivated 64 percent of vegans, and animal welfare, which motivated 89 percent. While plant-based diets have been proven to reduce certain disease risk factors, research on its cognitive and mental benefits has been inconclusive.

“I think [plant-based] will be the new way people shop,” Dollinger said. “I believe, over time, people will realize they do not need anything from animals, and they will see how much better they feel.”

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