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More than anything else, my mother loves hard-boiled detective stories and murder mysteries.
How is this tidbit relevant to a newsletter that covers the future of protein, you ask? This week I took advantage of my mother’s love of sleuthing and sent her to investigate a case of her own: the new Beyond Meat Fried Chicken nuggets and wings. They debuted at exactly one KFC location in Atlanta, Georgia — which just happened to be a few miles from where she lives.
She arrived at the KFC only to find that the line was wrapped around the block and the drive-thru had shut down because cars were starting to pile up on the side of the road. The wait time: over 2 hours.
Describing the scene to me, my mom kept saying one thing over and over: “And this is in Atlanta!”
I think what she meant is that Atlanta is a city steeped in soul food tradition — a place that takes its fried chicken seriously. So on the surface, ATL seemed like an odd city for Beyond Meat to make its fast-food poultry debut.
Of course, Atlanta is a big city with plenty of hip, millennial folks eager to try food that grabs a lot of media attention (cough, Beyond Meat, cough). Choosing Atlanta as its pilot city is also a little mic drop towards Chick-fil-A, which is headquartered in ATL and is reportedly also exploring plant-based protein options.
But the fact that Beyond Fried Chicken sold out so quickly (in only five hours!) means that there’s something larger at work here. Something that we’ve known for quite a while: consumers want plant-based meat. And they want it everywhere: even in places known for their fried chicken.
Basically, if Beyond Fried Chicken can make it there, it can make it anywhere. And it will. After this viral success, I’m betting we’ll see the plant-based nuggets and wings spread to KFC’s across the country as quickly as Burger King adopted the Impossible Whopper.
My mother didn’t end up getting to try Beyond Fried Chicken on that day, but she did get to speak to a few people in line who did. The verdict: delicious. Now the mystery is where Beyond Fried Chicken will show up next…
We all scream…
I may have missed the boat on sampling Beyond Fried Chicken, but this week I did get to perform a taste test of my own when I worked my way through 6 pints of Oatly’s new plant-based ice cream (don’t worry, I shared).
In short, it was good — not great. The texture creamy and rich, but the flavor was a little too… oaty for my taste. The exception being the Oat flavored ice cream, which was actually on point!
Despite my qualms, I think Oatly ice cream will do well when it rolls out in retail in the U.S. this fall — despite the growing competition in the dairy-free ice cream case. Its brightly-hued pints attract eyeballs and Oatly’s name will pop out to consumers who have already established a taste for its oat milk.
It may be crowded, but there’s also plenty of room for more players to enter the plant-based ‘scream market: According to Grand View Research, the dairy-free ice cream market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 14.8 percent over the next five years, reaching a size of $1.2 billion by 2025.
Things will get really interesting once Perfect Day enters the scene with its (delicious) flora-based ice cream, though.
I’ll take the lab-grown mahi-mahi, please
Last week BluNalu, a cellular aquaculture growing fish, mollusks, and crustaceans without the animals, announced more plans about its commercialization strategy. When I spoke to the CEO, Lou Cooperhouse, on the phone, he said they hope to break ground on their first large-scale production facility — which can produce a whopping 18 million pounds of seafood — in five years. Their inaugural product: mahi-mahi.
Having a concrete timeline at all puts BlueNalu ahead of most other cellular aquaculture startups out — heck, ahead of most cell-based meat companies at all. While lots of companies have vague promises to bring a product to market “within the next few years,” putting actual numbers on their rollout plans shows that BlueNalu is thinking long-term — and thinking big.
With BlueNalu developing mahi-mahi, Wild Type creating salmon, Shiok Meats making shrimp and Finless Foods tackling tuna, we could eventually dine on a fully cell-based seafood sushi smorgasbord. Now we have 3-5 years to get hyped about it.
Protein ’round the web
- Pizza, eh? Canadian 7-Elevens will start selling pizzas topped with Beyond Meat Italian sausage crumbles.
- Nestlé is reformulating its plant-based Incredible Burger, which it sells under its Gourmet Garden brand in Europe, to make it have a meatier flavor and texture (h/t Bloomberg).
- Puris, Beyond Meat’s pea protein supplier, just snagged an additional $75 million investment from Cargill, according to CNBC.
- Singapore-based vegan-friendly recommendation and review platform Abillionveg raised a US$2 million seed round (via TechinAsia).
That’s it from me this week! Have a great Labor Day and please, grill responsibly.