Colorado-based Planterra Foods announced a new plant-based brand today. Called OZO, the brand will include a line of meatless burgers, grounds, and meatballs. And here’s the kicker: Planterra Foods is owned by the U.S. branch of JBS, the Brazilian corporation that processes the largest amount of meat in the world.
OZO’s offerings are made of a mix of pea and rice protein fermented with shiitake mushrooms, which, according to a press release from Planterra, makes the products more “easily digestible.” OZO’s products will be priced from $5.99 to $7.99, which puts them in line with competitors like Beyond Meat.
The plant-based products will launch in grocery stores across the U.S. in April, after which the company will begin rolling them out through foodservice partners. Well, that’s the plan, anyway. The OZO line was meant to make its debut at Expo West this week, but the trade show was postponed a day before its start due to the coronavirus. It’s unclear if the outbreak will affect the April retail release timeline.
Interestingly, the press release announcing OZO’s launch doesn’t mention JBS until the very last sentence of the last paragraph, effectively burying it at the end. Maybe they’re worried that the information will turn off vegetarians and vegans who don’t want to eat plant-based food associated with a giant meat processor.
Despite Planterra Foods’ seeming reticence around it, the JBS affiliation is what will give the company a fighting chance to stand out in a plant-based meat aisle that’s extremely crowded — and getting more so by the day. OZO can leverage JBS’ existing supply chain to easily source its plant-based ingredients, and can also tap into its retail partnerships to elbow out some shelf space.
However, JBS isn’t the only Big Meat company hoping to leverage its retail connections to carve out a space for its plant-based branch. Tyson, Hormel, and Smithfield Foods have released their own meat alternatives over the past year as well. And just last week Cargill, another food and agriculture giant, announced its own plant-based burger, which will also be hitting retail shelves in April.
All this goes to show that the alterna-meat boom has finally made it all the way up to the largest players — even those specialize in meat. And with demand for plant-based food growing 11 percent year-over-year, it’s likely that JBS won’t be the last Big Food company we see trying to get in on the alternative meat action.