Photo: Beyond Meat.

Today Beyond Meat, the El Segundo, CA-based startup behind popular plant-based burgers, chicken strips, and sausages, announced a new product: Beyond Beef. The new product is meant to have the taste and texture of real beef, but, will have 25 percent less saturated fat and also, you know, be made of plants.

Both Beyond Beef and the Beyond Burger are made of a blend of pea, rice, and mung bean proteins. However, according to the Beyond Meat website, Beyond Beef will have a more “neutral flavor and aroma” than the Beyond Burger patties, making it a culinary blank canvas. It also has “a unique binding system” that will let it better hold shapes — like meatballs — better. Unlike Beyond’s Beef Crumbles, the new product will be raw and served in the fresh meat section of the supermarket.

The main difference is that Beyond Beef seems more versatile than the burger. Sure, you could break up a Beyond Meat burger patty and turn it into meatballs, or bolognese, or taco filling (which Beyond has clearly been doing with their Del Taco partnership). But the less creative cook might not think of that, bypassing the Beyond burgers for other meaty or plant-based alternatives.

Photo: Beyond Beef

By repackaging their burger “meat,” Beyond is opening the door to a whole slew of new preparations, as well as consumers that are looking for plant-based meat but don’t necessarily want a sausage, burger, or chicken strip for dinner.

Beyond Beef will launch in retail later this year, though the exact timing and price is still TBD. I wonder if they’ll beat Impossible Foods to the grocery shelves. Impossible is rolling out in retail at some point this year, though the company hasn’t yet announced if they’ll be selling their plant-based meat in pre-formed patties or in blocks, à la the new Beyond Beef.

Seeing as how Impossible has been placing lots of emphasis on the versatility of its product — they served it as empanadas, tartare, and tacos when they unveiled the new version of their “meat” at CES — I’m guessing it’s the latter. Which will make it all the more interesting to see if Impossible or Beyond ends up dominating as the alterna-meat ruler of the grocery aisle.

However, with the fast-growing popularity of plant-based meat, there will likely be plenty of opportunities for both companies to make their way into your meatloaf, hoagies, and dumplings.

This post has been updated with more information about Beyond Beef’s flavor profile from the Beyond Meat website

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