The brainchild of Danny O’Malley, who worked in sales for Beyond Meat for three years before launching his own plant-based business in 2017, Before the Butcher uses identity preserved Non-GMO soy protein concentrate as the core ingredient in its plant-based beefless burgers, savory chicken burgers, roasted turkey burgers and breakfast sausages.
“We tested all kinds of plant-based proteins, including pea, but we didn’t want gluten [which ruled out wheat] and soy delivered the best bite, chew, and texture. It’s also a complete protein,” said O’Malley, who said the plant-based grounds, tips, shreds and chunks are manufactured in Irvine, CA, while the patties are made Before the Butcher's sister company in San Diego (which also makes regular meat products).
“We started in foodservice last year and we're in accounts ranging from restaurants to colleges to stadiums, universities and even movie sets, but we’re getting ready to hit the market in a big way in retail with the 'Uncut' brand," he told FoodNavigator-USA.
“By mid-July, we’ll have our four burgers in two out of the three largest grocery retailers in the country, and by the end of August we’ll be in all three, with 3,000 plus retail locations across the country. We’ll also have bulk packs of burger ground, breakfast sausage, Italian sausage, and chorizo sausage.”
He added: “We will be in the fresh meat department although one of the retailers will put one of our products in the frozen meat department, but regardless, we’ll be in the meat department [as opposed to the vegetarian/meat-free segment where brands such as Tofurky and Field Roast currently sit].
“I think we’re soon going to see a plant-based protein section within the protein area of every grocery store across the country.”
- Uncut burger (4oz): 18g protein, 19g fat, 8g sat fat, 5g fiber, 150mg sodium, 260 calories. Key ingredient: Soy protein concentrate
- Beyond Burger (4oz): 20g protein, 20g fat, 5g sat fat, 3g fiber, 380mg sodium, 270 calories. Key ingredient: Pea protein isolate
- Impossible Burger (4oz): 19g protein, 14g fat, 8g sat fat, 3g fiber, 370mg sodium, 240 calories. Key ingredient: Soy protein concentrate
- McDonald’s Quarter Pounder 100% Beef Patty: 20g protein, 18g fat, 8g sat fat, 0g fiber, 190mg sodium, 240 calories. Key ingredient: Beef
Uncut burger has less than half the sodium of the Beyond Burger and Impossible Burger
So how will consumers choose between the options as more refrigerated plant-based burgers and sausages enter the meat case? (Beyond Meat – which started out in the frozen vegan and vegetarian section of the store - was the first to move into the meat case, but will soon be joined by Impossible Foods, while Tyson and Nestlé are also developing new products in the category although it’s not clear if their aim is to compete in the meat case.)
As with any category, shoppers will be looking at taste, price, branding, and nutrition, said O’Malley, who said the Uncut brand performs well against all of these metrics, retailing at around 8-10% less than the Beyond Burger, with similar nutritionals but significantly less sodium, and a satisfying taste and texture.
“We excel in all of these areas plus we have a lot less sodium than the Beyond Burger [380mg] and the Impossible Burger [370mg]. Our retail packages are very bright and strong and will stand out on shelf. They are also two-thirds the width of the Beyond Burger package, which retailers love, because you can put in three of our packages in the space that will fit two of them.”
'We plan to be profitable very quickly without having to raise tens of millions of dollars'
Asked whether he thought Impossible Foods (which has raised more than $700m) and Beyond Meat (which recently went public and is currently valued at more than $5bn) were as far ahead of rivals as the vast sums they have invested might suggest, he said that they would face stiff competition in the years to come, especially as big players such as Nestle and Tyson entered the fray.
“Beyond and Impossible have done an incredible job opening up a huge pathway for us and others to go down. They have educated the public, which makes our job so much easier. But we plan to be profitable very quickly without having to raise tens of millions of dollars. That’s our goal, and we have a very lean, mean machine.”
He added: “There are a lot of companies that will be releasing burgers this year and retailers will also bring out private label products in time. This is not something you can make in your kitchen at home, and we’ve got some incredibly skilled R&D people that helped us, but we’re all doing the same basic things.”
Asked how Before the Butcher was funded, he explained: “We had an angel investor get us through the first year and a half, and that majority investment share was just acquired by a pair of investors in San Diego, who also own our sister company there. We plan to announce details of next week.
“It was a multimillion dollar deal and we have access now to a tremendous amount of capital to grow and expand our production capacity.”
INGREDIENTS (Uncut beefless burger): Water, soy protein concentrate, expeller pressed canola oil, refined coconut oil, isolated soy protein, soy flour, yeast extract (yeast extract, natural flavor, salt), methylcellulose, caramel color, natural flavor (yeast extract, maltodextrin, salt, natural flavors, medium chain triglycerides, acetic acid, grill flavor [from sunflower oil], smoke flavor), beet powder (beet juice, maltodextrin, citric acid), natural red color (beet juice, annatto, glycerin), citric acid.