Beyond Meat CEO: ‘We’re building one of the great American meat companies (from plants)’

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

Ethan Brown: 'Let's build the Tesla of meat...'
Ethan Brown: 'Let's build the Tesla of meat...'

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Beyond Meat - the California-based firm that claims to have unlocked the secret to making ‘near-perfect’ replicas of meat from plants – says that in future, meat-free products won’t be confined to a ‘vegetarian’ section, but just part of the broader ‘protein’ set.

Speaking to FoodNavigator-USA a month after Beyond Meat’s omega-3-packed ‘Beast Burger’ hit shelves at Whole Foods, with additional accounts to follow shortly, CEO Ethan Brown said: “I just see consumers shopping for protein, whether it’s animal-based or plant-based.”

He added: “We’re growing extremely rapidly; in early 2014 we were in 1,500 stores, now we’re in almost 7,000including Publix, HEB, Target, and Whole Foods​ [from a standing start in 2013]. We’ve also gone from just a few SKUs to a pretty comprehensive set.  

“Our focus is building meat from plants, and our ambition as a company is to be one of the next great American meat companies. But we think about ‘meat’ very differently from others. To me it’s not about whether it’s from a cow, chicken or a pig, but what it is​ – and it’s just lipids, amino acids, carbs, minerals and water.”

Let’s build the Tesla of meat

And you can get all of these things from plants, he said, noting that Beyond Meat’s soy-free Beast Burger is packed with nutrition (ingredients include non-GMO pea protein isolate, flaxseed oil, chia, DHA algal oil, beet juice, moringa, sea buckthorn, mesquite, bottlebrush herb and fulvic acid).

Beyond chicken
Beyond Chicken products are made from non-GMO pea and soy protein isolates, plus soy and carrot fiber, yeast extract, amaranth and non-GMO expeller pressed canola oil

He added: “Why confine yourself to the genetic map of the animal? Why can’t we improve meat?

“Wouldn’t it be great to provide a center of the plate protein that not only has no cholesterol, but has more protein than beef, more omegas than salmon, more calcium than milk, more antioxidants than blueberries, that has a muscle recovery blend in it?

“We’re changing the rules of the game, let’s build the Tesla of meat.”

Most Beyond Meat products are frozen (Beyond Chicken strips, Beyond Beef crumbles, Beast Burgers, Beastly Sliders), but it also has refrigerated products in the prepared foods sections of Whole Foods and some other stores, and is looking to expand its presence here, as well as working with foodservice customers, said Brown.

While interest in plant-based diets has been growing for some time, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee report​ - which said cutting down on red and processed meat is better for your health and the planet – had focused minds, he said. “We couldn’t have asked for a better set of recommendations for our business.”

Beast Burger package
The Beast Burger, priced at $5.39-$5.99 for two quarter pounder burgers, is Beyond Meat’s fastest-selling product, says CEO Ethan Brown

DGAC report focused minds on merits of more plant-based diets

Beyond Meat - co-founded by Brown and Brent Taylor (VP of corporate development) in 2009 - launched its first products on the national stage in 2013, and has secured financial backing from high profile investors including Bill Gates, Honest Tea founder Seth Goldman, VC legend Kleiner-Perkins Caufield & Byers (which backed Amazon and Google - before everyone else did), The Obvious Corporation (an investment vehicle created by the founders of Twitter), and the Humane Society of the United States.

Beyond Beef beefy crumble
Beyond Beef crumbles are made from non-GMO pea protein isolate

Based in El Segundo, California, with a manufacturing facility in Columbia, Missouri, the firm has the license to use a patented process​ to make meat-replicas developed by Fu-Hung Hsieh and Harold Huff at the University of Missouri.

While meat replacers have been around for years, they haven’t taken the world by storm - yet - in part because most meat analogs just don’t taste like meat, says Brown.

The problem is the spongy structure (not fibrous like meat), poor flavor retention and poor moisture retention, which means meat-lovers try them once, and don’t buy them again, claims Brown, who promises to deliver “a seamless experience for carnivores, like shifting from one meat to another ​[that just happens to be made from plants].”

While having a section on 'protein' rather than a finished food category (eg. meats, legumes etc) upset some people, the MyPlate model is consistent with Beyond Meat's philosophy

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Posted by DrT,

Beets are known to be heavily sprayed with pesticides and therefore toxic to human health. Does your company use organic beets/beet juice?

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Awesome Company!

Posted by Tanya Dawson,

Tried these products for the first time this past week thanks in part to rebate offers they are running on Shopmium. They really are delicious and being a meat lover it is difficult to distinguish the difference.

I look forward to seeing this company grow and create new products.

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