“The Perfect Turk’y Burger is the first plant-based turkey burger that really, actually tastes like a turkey burger and delivers the same type of experience from a consistency, look, taste and smell standpoint,” company CEO Larry Praeger told FoodNavigator-USA.
He explained that by using a combination of natural flavors and colors, the company was able to mimic the color and flavor of turkey burgers, while the addition of 20g of “Pure Plant Protein” from peas, not soy, helps deliver the nutritional profile consumers want.
Similarly, the company uses sunflower oil – rather than coconut oil as is favored by some competitors – to deliver the “fatty taste” consumers want but with significantly less saturated fat than beef products or plant-based alternatives to beef, Praeger said.
While the Perfect Turk’y Burger embraces and delivers on demand for a more meat-like experience from plant-based products, it also stays true to Dr. Praeger’s “DNA” of focusing on vegetables and clean ingredients by infusing the patty with real carrots, sweet potatoes and butternut squash.
The launch builds on the company’s Perfect meat alternative line, which launched in late 2018 and gained traction in 2019 with the debut of the Perfect Burger, Perfect Sliders and Perfect Plant Based Ground products.
Expanding consumer appeal
By expanding with a line of more 'meat-like' offerings, Dr. Praeger’s ostensibly expands its appeal beyond consumers who love the taste of vegetables to those who also want the variety of products that more closely mimic their animal counterparts.
“We are probably ultimately targeting different people, but for us it was really about offering more products to the Dr. Praeger’s consumer – giving them more opportunities to choose different meals and different type of food during different occasions,” Praeger said, adding that while the lines reach different consumer bases there is also significant overlap.
“One night you might be in the mood for something that tastes like meat, and one night you might be in the mood for something that is more like our Cali Veggie burger,” which lets the vegetables take center-stage, he said.
As Dr. Praeger’s expands its footprint in the more “meat-like” plant-based segment, it also is exploring other areas for innovation, including some well beyond the brand’s historic playground.
“We have always played in the frozen market and section of the supermarket, but we have been contemplating lately whether we should … expand the Dr. Praeger’s offerings to a different part of the store” in the next few years, Praeger said, noting that could be “potentially fresh or other categories.”
He also said that in the next two years the brand will launch new products that “get further out for Dr. Praeger’s and into areas where the consumer is looking and willing to try, but where we can offer an option with more of the Dr. Praeger’s DNA,” meaning a heavy emphasis on vegetables and clean ingredients.
For example, he said, he sees potential with “hybrids” that combine an extra dose of plant-based protein with flavorful vegetables, such as the company’s Sweet Heat Beet Burger.
“It is a hybrid in that it has more protein than the traditional Dr. Praeger’s burgers, but less than the Perfect Burger. So, it is a sweet spot of different interesting vegetables and mixing it with protein,” he explained.
Praeger also noted there is room to “always make things better” in categories that are well established or might appear at first blush to be saturated.
“You always have products out there that you know have a good idea or concept, but don’t deliver on many things – whether it is ingredients or the type of nutrition or the taste or texture. So, I think innovation is making sure you have great new products” that iterate as well as push boundaries, he said. “Our Perfect Turk’y burger is a good example” of a product that might not be first of its kind but substantially improves on current offerings.
Perfect Turk’y Burger ingredients: Hydrated Pea Protein Blend (Water, Pea Protein), Sunflower Oil, Natural Flavors, Sweet Potato Puree, Butternut Squash Puree, Carrot Puree, Methyl Cellulose, Oat Fiber, Sea Salt, Fruit And Vegetable Juices (Colors), Onion Powder, Garlic Powder
Balancing competition and teamwork
Dr. Praeger’s Perfect Turk’y Burger launches at a time when increased consumer interested in plant-based products is beginning to drive a wedge between some industry players, which historically have worked together to lift the entire category.
Lightlife Foods last week declared in an open letter to Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, published in The New York Times and other publications, that it was “making a clean break from both of you ‘food tech’ companies that attempt to mimic meat at any cost.”
The letter attempted to cast Lightlife Foods’ products as less-processed, made with “real food” and having fewer ingredients than those of Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods. However, as both targeted companies noted, their ingredients are also “real” and the number of ingredients in a product has “zero relevance to health or product quality.”
While Praeger said he understands the need for players to differentiate themselves, he said he believes “the best approach is to help each other and lift each other up in a respectful way, and continue to innovate, which will likely help everyone innovate that much better.”
He added that “over the past year or two, you have seen with Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods and Dr. Praeger’s … try to lift each other up and show that there is a lot of environmental reasons and health reasons” to opt for plant-based alternatives to animal protein – a message that many consumers still need to hear.