Meat-free products—from brands such as LightLife, Beyond Meat, Impossible Foods and Gardein—are entirely different from the veggie bean patties that used to be the standard vegan option. Made out of a variety of beans and legumes, vegan meat burgers look, cook and taste just like beef, but they don’t need a cow.
Plant-based companies are trying to emulate the very product they’re trying to rival.
The top line is that consumers want more environmentally friendly and healthier products, but they want them to remain familiar. They want burgers that taste like the ones they’ve grown up with—most of these people are not vegan, nor are they trying to be.
Flexitarianism is on the rise: In the U.K., 91% of the population identify as flexitarian. They are trying to reduce their meat intake—not completely eliminate meat. In the U.S., nearly 114 million Americans are trying to add more plant-based foods to their diet—not switch to veganism completely.
According to a recent NPD Group study, meat eaters have eaten 216 million vegan burgers so far this year. Many of these were ordered in fast-food chains. Burger King recently launched the Impossible Whopper nationwide, which I tested in Minneapolis just a couple weeks ago in a side-by-side comparison with the beef version. Frankly, between the sauces and lettuce and tomato, the three of use could barely taste the difference.
White Castle locations offer the Impossible Slider, and Carl’s Jr. now offers the Beyond Burger in more than 1,000 locations.
NPD says of the overall adult population, 18% are trying to get more plant-based foods into their diets.