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In a normal world, with Labor Day behind us, now would be the time that everyone gets back to work, nose to the grindstone, powering through all kinds of business before the holiday break.
But we aren’t in a normal world, and looking back, two companies that definitely did not take a summer break were Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat. Both have been in what amounts to a plant-based Battle Royale, trading big announcements back and forth all summer long.
I don’t want to turn this newsletter into a litany of announcements (you can catch up by checking out our Impossible and Beyond story archives), but rather take this moment to reflect on the bigger picture.
Whether it was retail partner announcements, direct sales channel launches, or international deals, the one common thread for both companies was expansion. More stores, more buying options, more geographic markets.
Yes, there was some new product news. Impossible rolled out it’s plant-based sausage and Beyond did another pilot for its plant-based chicken. But most of the news wasn’t about new items, it was about scale.
This is good news for flexitarians and the plant-based market overall, which has seen a spike in demand during the pandemic. This means that for now at least, the companies have stabilized their offering and probably won’t be tinkering publicly with their fake meat formulas.
Both companies are also expanding at a time when ingrained problems with the traditional meat-packing industry are being illuminated by the coronavirus. According to the CDC:
Among 23 states reporting COVID-19 outbreaks in meat and poultry processing facilities, 16,233 cases in 239 facilities occurred, including 86 (0.5%) COVID-19–related deaths. Among cases with race/ethnicity reported, 87% occurred among racial or ethnic minorities.
So there is an opportunity for plant-based meat companies, which say that their product is better for the planet, to show that their working conditions are more better for workers.
All of this is to say that 2020 was a building year for both Impossible and Beyond. This isn’t exactly a hot take, but all of this scaling and expanding the two companies have done over the summer are going to lead to even more mainstreaming of plant-based meat throughout 2021.
Predicting the Next Flavortown
Spoonshot announced yesterday that it has raised a $1 million seed round of funding for its AI-based approach to flavor prediction. For those unfamiliar, Spoonshot hoovers up food data from all kinds of sources to suggest which flavors will work together in novel combinations.
But almost as interesting as the funding news is what I learned from speaking with Spoonshot Co-Founder and CEO Kishan Vasani, who told me that the compay has developed a new product called the Concept Generator.
Where the company’s Ingredient Network is a tool that let’s you explore the world of flavors, following rabbit holes of unique combinations, the Concept Generator promises to be more of a product-creation-tool-in-a-box.
With the Concept Generator, Vasani told me that CPG companies can basically come to the table with a particular product in mind. So a company could say they want some type of cracker that has is built around the cheddar flavor. The Concept Generator takes that idea and returns ideas for flavor combinations as well as an ingredients list to make that cracker.
If it works as Vasani says it does, the Concept Generator seems like it could be an easy (relatively speaking) way for smaller startups to get to market, as well as bigger companies to iterate products.
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