'Our relationship with Leo began a few years back...'

Leonardo DiCaprio joins star-studded investor line up at Beyond Meat

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

Leonardo DiCaprio invests in Beyond Meat

Related tags Meat Beyond meat

The star-studded group of investors backing Beyond Meat – which makes what it claims to be ‘near-perfect’ replicas of meat, from plants – has expanded this week as Oscar winner and environmental activist Leonardo DiCaprio has invested an undisclosed sum into the company.

The El Segundo, CA-based company – which has already secured financial backing from high-profile investors including Tyson Foods, General Mills’ 301 Inc venture arm, Seth Goldman, Bill Gates, VC legend Kleiner-Perkins Caulfield & 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 – said​ DiCaprio had joined the team “as an official investor and advocate.”

It added: “Our relationship with Leo began a few years back when he first visited our research center and subsequently provided feedback on early iterations of The Beyond Burger. Leo shares our vision that we can positively impact climate change by bringing satiating, appealing, plant-based meats to the center of the plate, and we are thrilled to have his partnership.”

DiCaprio, who has invested in guayusa-fueled beverage brand RUNA​, chickpea snack brand HIPPEAS​ and seafood company LoveTheWild ​over the past 18 months, said he was attracted to Beyond Meat’s mission: "Shifting from animal meat to the plant-based meats developed by Beyond Meat is one of the most powerful measures someone can take to reduce their impact on our climate.

“Beyond Meat's ability to create appealing, healthy meat directly from plants will go a long way in helping every day consumers take action on climate change."

 Foodservice potential

Co-founded by Ethan Brown and Brent Taylor in 2009, Beyond Meat launched its first products on the national stage in 2013, and is now in thousands of stores including Kroger, Albertsons, Safeway, HEB, Target, and Whole Foods, with products including single-serve meals, Beast burgers and sliders (made from non-GMO pea protein); Beyond Chicken strips, tenders and poppers (made from non-GMO soy and pea protein); Beyond Beef crumbles and meatballs (made with non-GMO pea protein); and its highest profile product, the pea protein-based Beyond Burger, which is sold chilled alongside conventional meat.

DiCaprio Beyond Meat

The ready-to-cook patty, which is shipped frozen but merchandised in stores’ refrigerators, is now in 3,000+ stores, and is also gaining traction in the foodservice market in chains from TGI Fridays to Veggie Grill. A recent deal with Sysco​ will also expand its potential reach to tens of thousands of burger joints, restaurant chains, hospitality properties, healthcare centers and educational facilities nationwide.

Based in El Segundo, California, with a manufacturing facility in Columbia, Missouri, Beyond Meat 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, and is on a mission “to create mass-market solutions that perfectly replace animal protein with plant protein.”

The size of the prize

According to Nielsen data compiled for the Plant Based Foods Association and The Good Food Institute, US retail sales of meat alternatives in measured channels rose 6.1% to $554.6m in the year to August 12, 2017, while sales of tofu and tempeh (which Nielsen tracks separately) were up 2.6% to $98.6m.

Speaking to FoodNavigator-USA at our Food Vision USA​ conference in Chicago last year, executive chairman Seth Goldman said that if plant-based burgers become a permanent fixture in the meat case, “all of a sudden, the meat aisle becomes the protein aisle. There’s cow protein, chicken protein and plant protein. It’s a continuum of options.”

He added: “We have to products that can compete in the meat section because that is where most families buy their protein. The sales lift when we move to the meat section is dramatic. Vegetarians don’t go to the meat section, so the fact that it’s selling so well in the meat section suggests we’re attracting a new audience ​[ie. meat eaters].

“I remember Stephen Colbert talking about veggie burgers being bar coasters soaked in MSG, so how do we change perceptions of a plant based burger into something delicious and juicy?”

impossible burger patties

Plant-based meats account for less than a quarter of 1% of meat sales in the US, while plant-based milks have gobbled up almost 10% of the fluid milk market, says the Good Food Institute (GFI). But why is this? Are they simply not up to snuff, or is it just a matter of time before that percentage creeps up?  Read more HERE​.

Where is the plant-based food movement heading?

Join Dr Liz Specht from the Good Food Institute, Doug Radi from Good Karma Foods, Miyoko Schinner from Miyoko's Kitchen and Steven Vigilante from CircleUp at FOOD VISION USA​ Nov 13-15 to explore what's next for plant-based foods, and where cultured meat fits into the equation.

Food vision usa 2017 food farming plant based cropped

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Posted by Larry,

Love Beyond meat burger. Wish I could find it in more stores.

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It's About TIme!

Posted by Jennifer,

Great news that Beyond has attracted so much capital and star power. This is such a positive sign that eating something "besides meat' is not only possible, or even acceptable, but actually desirable. Looking forward to seeing more headlines similar to this in the coming months and years.

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