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 7,000 including 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).
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.”
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.
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].”