This is the web version of our weekly Future Food newsletter. The newsletter has exclusive additional content, so be sure to subscribe here so you don’t miss a beat!
Meat alternatives may be in the midst of their salad days, but they still have their haters.
Thus far, things have been looking rosy for plant-based meats. Beyond Meat blew all expectations with their IPO and followed that up with plans for a new production facility in Europe (next stop: world domination). Impossible Foods recently raised $300 million and has begun rolling out in Burger Kings across the nation. Even mega food corporations like Nestlé, Tyson and Unilever are jumping into the warm, inviting waters of plant-based meat innovation.
But plenty of groups are out to rock the boat.
Big Meat — that is, major industrial meat corporations and coalitions, like the National Cattleman’s Association — feel threatened by the growing popularity of plant-based meat, which is hoovering up a 10 percent chunk of their market share. To clap back, traditional meat companies have helped push bans to keep meat not made from a slaughtered animal from using labels like “burgers” or “sausages.” Europe is contemplating a similar ban.
The competition is not plant-based meat’s only detractor. Some ethically motivated consumers are also turned off by Impossible Foods’ and Beyond Meat’s recent push into fast-food restaurants, including Burger King, criticizing their alignment with corporations which can be exploitative to human workers and promote poor nutrition.
Others are concerned with the long ingredient list and heavy processing that goes into plant-based meat. Sure, options like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods are better for the environment than beef — but are they better for our bodies? Not necessarily. As the shine of novelty wears of plant-based meat, companies will have to work harder to show consumers that it is indeed the healthier choice. Or at least convince them that they shouldn’t care.
Plant-based meat has been coasting on a wave of consumer excitement, ethically conscious messaging, and high-profile celebrity endorsements and investments. But soon the waters are going to start getting a little bumpier. That goes double once cell-based meat enters the game and frames itself as a cleanier, simpler meat option — without the sacrifice.
Alternative meat companies better prepare to fight.
We’ve got the meats
Recently, rumors have been flying that fast-food chains from Wendy’s to Arby’s are considering adding Impossible Foods’ plant-based meat to their menus (along with Subway, Dunkin’, and others).
When Arby’s President Robert Lynch heard the news, he almost had a heart attack. “The only way [it would happen] would be if I got fired for some reason,” he told Fortune, presumably between bites of a hearty Meat Mountain sandwich.
Okay, so vegetarians will have to keep bypassing Arby’s for now. But the bigger point here is how vehemently Lynch was against the very idea of adding plant-based meat to their menu.
As fellow Spoon writer Chris recently pointed out, this sort of all-in or all-out stance towards, well, anything is rampant in today’s political discourse. It seems that even the fast-food space is not immune.
Protein new ’round the web
- Food tech investment will soon pivot away from plant-based meat and towards dairy alternatives, predicts Techcrunch. Investors better start saying “cheese.”
- Burger King traffic has increased 18 percent since they introduced the Impossible Whopper (h/t CNBC).
- Can plant-based proteins significantly cut down on our meat consumption until there’s a reasonable replacement for steak? The Washington Post asks if a lack of T-Bones is an insurmountable obstacle for meat alternatives.
- Down Under, Hungry Jack’s — the Australian version of Burger King — is investing $1 million to develop a new veggie burger. But is that enough?
This Tuesday was apparently National Burger Day. Food holidays are kinda bogus (National Fluffernutter Day, anyone?), but we hope you took the opportunity to enjoy a juicy double-decker patty nonetheless. Plant-based or otherwise.