Today Maple Leaf Foods, a Canadian packaged meat company and owner of vegan food brands Lightlife and Field Roast, announced plans to build a $310 million plant-based protein factory in Shelbyville, Indiana. According to the press release, it will be the largest facility of its kind in North America.
The new facility will apparently double Maple Leaf Foods’ production capacity, allowing them to make lots more tempeh, vegan sausages and burgers. Especially burgers: earlier this year Lightlife introduced a “bloody” plant-based burger that looks an awful lot like Beyond Meat’s patties. The new burger was an attempt by Maple Leaf to capitalize off rising demand for meat-like meat alternatives from startups like Beyond and also Impossible Foods.
But startups aren’t the only ones getting into the plant-based protein space. Massive food corporations like Nestlé and Tyson are also launching meat alternatives meant to cook, look, and taste like the real thing. Interestingly, Maple Leaf, like Tyson, is chiefly a consumer packaged meats company, though both are investing heavily in plant-based alternatives.
Construction on Maple Leaf’s new facility is expected to start later this spring, with production to start at the end of 2020.
This new facility is a smart move on the part of Maple Leaf. If the current trend in plant-based eating holds true, and all signs indicate that it will, then the new factory will help the company keep up with growing demand for meat alternatives. With increased capacity, it will also have more resources to develop newer, better-tasting plant-based meats, like, say, vegan ground beef or meatier sausages. In short, the new facility could give Maple Leaf a much-needed edge over competitors like Nestlé, Beyond, Tyson, and Impossible, which has plans to move into retail at some point this year.