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A few weeks ago Tyson, the world’s second largest producer of beef, chicken, and pork, took a significant step into alternative proteins. And they’re not the only one making a shift towards flexitarianism. Perdue recently debuted its own blended meat product, Nestlé is selling its plant-based burger in Europe (with a U.S. version slated for the fall), and Unilever recently acquired European company The Vegetarian Butcher.
This could be a good thing for flexitarians everywhere. Giant companies like Tyson can make plant-based protein cheaper and more widely available. However, with their massive amounts of capital, manufacturing power, and distribution, they could also muscle out smaller plant-based players, especially as they expand their product line.
A Big Food push into alternative meat could take some market share away from companies like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, which are currently dominating the game. It could also make it harder for even younger alt-meat startups to compete for retail space and name recognition.
Major food companies obviously have the upper hand in terms of money and reach, but due to their size they’re also generally slower to innovate. If smaller plant-based meat companies want to carve out a piece of the market, they better develop something totally new and exciting — and fast.
Israel’s Lovin’ It
Speaking of Big Food and plant-based protein, yesterday news broke that McDonald’s Israel would start selling a Big Vegan burger made with Nestlé’s meatless Incredible patty. It’s the second McDonalds region to start selling the Big Vegan, which is already on menus in Germany.
Really makes you wonder when the U.S. McDonald’s will hop on board. So far Micky D’s says it has no plans to add plant-based meat to the menu; it wants to make sure that there’s sufficient sustained consumer demand it invests.
I’m guessing they won’t wait too much longer. True, McDonald’s is having a boom in burger sales after switch to fresh beef last year. However, fast-food restaurants around them are all rushing to adopt plant-based protein — the mounting pressure will likely force McDonald’s to at least test out their own alterna-burger in the near future.
While we wait, though, we can bide our time by guessing which meatless meat option McDonald’s will go with. Its biggest competitor Burger King already has the Impossible Whopper, so McDonald’s will probably steer clear of Impossible in order to differentiate. Will they follow in their European brethren’s footsteps and go with Nestlé, whose Awesome Burger will launch in the U.S. this fall? Or will we see Beyond Big Macs in the future?
Then again, there’s always the chance McDonald’s decides to develop their own options internally, especially since plant-based meat has been having some supply issues as of late.
You realize we’re all just biding our time until cell-based meat gets here, right?
Sadly, that might be a while. I spoke with the founders of Wild Type, the company making cultured salmon sheets (think: lox) about how and when they plan to bring their product to market. The when part is still unclear. But the how part is pretty simple: by cutting down costs.
Right now a single serving of sushi made with Wild Type’s salmon would cost $200. That’s pretty ritzy. So until they can bring the cost down to compete with wild-caught King salmon ($29.99/pound), we’ll have to settle for fish-free lox made from carrots and beets. Sigh.
Protein ’round the web
- Green Monday, the Hong Kong-based company making meat alternatives, will expand sales of its plant-based Omnipork product to Thailand and China later this year, FoodNavigator Asia reports.
- This week KFC in the U.K. launched a meatless chicken sandwich called The Imposter Burger. According to The Independent, it sold out in four days.
- Fast-casual chain PizzaRev has added Beyond Meat’s Italian Sausage Crumbles as a meatless topping option for its ‘zas.
Finally: Plant-based meats? What about meat-based plants? Arby’s, the chain that is staunchly anti-meat alternative, has a new video where they make vegetables out of meat — also called “megetables.” It’s equal parts gross and fascinating.