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This week the New York Times ran a story on the front page of their Business section entitled “The New Makers of Plant-Based Meat? Big Meat Companies.”
A lot of what author David Yaffe-Bellany wrote in the piece we’ve already covered in this newsletter or on The Spoon. In short: large corporations like Tyson, Perdue, and Smithfield, which have traditionally made their living from animal products, are rebranding as “protein” companies and rolling out their own meat alternative offerings.
But there was something new that caught my eye in Yaffe-Bellany’s article. It wasn’t about the giant meat corporations, but about the disruptors themselves — namely Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat.
“In some ways, the plant-based meat start-ups are beginning to resemble major food companies themselves,” Yaffe-Bellany writes. “Beyond Meat is valued at nearly $9 billion, making it about a third the size of Tyson.” Consider that Tyson is the second-largest meat processing company in the world, and that puts into sharp perspective just how huge Beyond Meat really is.
Especially telling is a quote from Beyond Meat’s CEO Ethan Brown in reference to Big Meat companies. “I don’t want to collaborate with them,” Brown told the Times. “I want to be them.”
It seems that Beyond and Impossible are gearing up to become Big Plant-based Meat. But with great power comes great responsibility — and great expectations.
With their product shortage a few months ago, Impossible Foods has already gotten a taste of the outrage that happens when they fail to meet demand. The company has since partnered with global processing firm the OSI Group to quadruple capacity, but as Impossible continues to grow and penetrate new markets (cough, retail, cough), any future shortages could have an even more detrimental effect on the brand — and on the reputation of plant-based meat on the whole.
If companies like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods do indeed want to become the next generation of Big Meat, it could put their principles to the test. Both companies have frequently vocalized their mission to save the planet by replacing traditional meat with plant-based alternatives. But as these early movers become (even more) major food corporations, will they leave any room for younger plant-based players to enter the scene?
In short, Big Meat may be getting into plant-based meat. But plant-based meat is getting Big, too.
With Pigs Out, Plant-based Pork is In
One thing that could nudge more folks to eat more plant-based meat is the impending global pork shortage. China’s pig populations are going to be halved by the end of this year thanks to an outbreak of African Swine Flu. Since China produces roughly half of the pork in the world, that means that soon, your bacon is going to be a lot pricier.
The price hike means that pork could soon reach price parity with plant-based sausage and bacon. That alone could motivate some folks to try out alternatives, especially as companies start to diversify beyond burgers and make more pork alternatives.
But the bigger motivation for consumers to switch to plant-based pork lies in food safety. The outbreak African Swine Flu could make consumers cautious to consume meat, especially since it comes on the heels of a beef recall over E. coli contamination earlier this year. Plants, though not immune to outbreaks, could tempt consumers spooked by food safety risks with animal products, especially as alternatives improve to taste more and more like the real thing.
Protein ’round the web
- As of last week, meal kit company Plated has added Beyond Meat to its repertoire. Subscribers will have access to one recipe featuring the plant-based meat per month.
- Oatly is bringing its oat milk ice cream to the U.K. through a partnership with Tesco, the largest British grocery chain (h/t Livekindly).
- Plant-based meat brand Lightlife is expanding its retail footprint. Its animal-free burgers, sausages, bratwurst and ground “meat” will soon be available in more than 12,000 stores nationwide.
That’s it from me this week! ICYMI, here’s a wrapup of some of the alternative protein conversations that went down at SKS 2019 last week.