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Fresh Food

Plant-Based Burgers Go Mainstream

Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat ready for disruption in the meat case
Photograph: Shutterstock

Plant-based meat alternatives are fast becoming mainstream, and now that foodservice supplier Impossible Foods has announced it will begin selling its plant-based burgers—potentially alongside Beyond Meat products—in grocery stores next month, competition in the meat case will be hotter than ever.

Redwood City, Calif.-based Impossible Foods, sold through fine-dining, fast-casual and fast-food restaurants, including White Castle, Hopdoddy Burger Bar and Burger King, had been awaiting approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on a crucial ingredient, soy leghemoglobin, before it could sell to grocery stores.

The Impossible Foods website describes soy leghemoglobin (or heme) as short for legume hemoglobin, the hemoglobin found in soy. The heme in Impossible Burger is made using a yeast engineered with the gene for soy leghemoglobin.

Following a 30-day objection period with the FDA, Impossible can start selling its product directly to consumers.

Further blazing its trail to the grocery channel, Impossible Foods this week launched a co-manufacturing collaboration with global food provider OSI Group of Aurora, Ill., one of the largest food producers in the world. The move is expected to alleviate shortages in supply. OSI will begin producing the Impossible Burger starting next month and will continue to expand production moving forward.

Billion-Dollar Burgers

Data released last month by San Francisco-based Plant Based Foods Association and The Good Food Institute showed that U.S. retail sales of plant-based foods have grown 11% in the past year, bringing the total plant-based market value to $4.5 billion. The total U.S. retail food market has grown just 2% in dollar sales during this same period.

With the rise in flexitarian eating, which sees more consumers who don’t identify as strictly vegan or vegetarian choosing meatless and dairy-free options for some eating occasions, there’s a revolution in the meat case, and all-beef patties are increasingly making room for plant-based fare.

While Impossible Foods and its star Impossible Burger have taken the foodservice sector by storm, Beyond Meat has been going gangbusters at grocery and, increasingly, restaurants. Carl’s Junior of Nashville offers the charbroiled Beyond Famous Star with Cheese. Del Taco and TGI Friday’s are also selling the plant-based meat alternative.

Beyond Meat of El Segundo, Calif., which made its initial public offering valued at $3.8 billion in May, reportedly posted a market value of $11.7 billion in July.

Just how mainstream has Beyond Meat become? The publicly traded company, which is required to disclose its biggest distributors and supply channels, has reportedly told the Securities and Exchange Commission that Whole Foods and its parent company Amazon.com Inc. aren’t the prime customers they once were.

Sales of Beyond Meat at the Austin, Texas-based grocer represented just 2% of gross revenue in the third quarter of 2018, down from 10% in 2017, according to a MarketWatch report.

Separately this week, The Meatless Farm Co. rolled out meat-free burgers and meat-free ground products to more than 450 Whole Foods Markets stores in the U.S. The U.K.-based company, which has U.S. headquarters in New York, said it was also preparing to open production facilities stateside ahead of a planned 2020 expansion.

Whole Foods Market customers can purchase Meatless Farm’s meat-free quarter-pound burger patties, priced at $5.99 for a pack of two, and its meat-free ground, priced at $7.99 per 14-ounce pack. Meatless Farm products will be available in the fresh food aisle, alongside other plant-based brands.

“It’s an exciting time to introduce The Meatless Farm Co to our U.S. shoppers, as plant-based is without a doubt one of the most innovative categories in retail, and gaining more and more traction with consumers,” Parker Brody, global grocery category merchant for Whole Foods, said in a statement. “We know Meatless Farm’s products will resonate with our U.S. shoppers, many of whom come to Whole Foods Market looking for new, delicious products that meet not only their food preferences, but also those of their friends and family. We’re proud to have them joining our shelves."

“Whole Foods Market is an ideal partner for us as they also cater to a discerning audience of consumers who pay attention to what’s in their food—from meat-eaters looking to reduce their meat intake and parents looking for healthy meal options for their families to flexitarians, vegetarians, and vegans,” Robert Woodall, CEO of The Meatless Farm Co. added. “As plant-based alternatives become increasingly mainstream, we’re on a mission to educate the world-wide market on the benefits to them and the environment.”

 

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