Plant-Based Meat Moves Many Steps Beyond

Progressive Grocer learns from a pioneer in the alternative-protein space
Bridget Goldschmidt
Managing Editor
Bridget Goldschmidt profile picture
Beyond Chicken Tenders Main Image
Beyond Chicken Tenders initially launched last summer and gained expanded distribution in the spring.

When many consumers think of plant-based meat, one of the first brands that come to mind is El Segundo, Calif.-based Beyond Meat, whose range of products has set the pace for innovation in the alternative-protein segment. Recently, Progressive Grocer found out from a spokesperson at the company what it’s doing in terms of new product development, and what retailers and consumers can soon expect in this growing area.

Progressive Grocer: What are the challenges to developing plant-based/alternative protein products that mimic the taste of meat?

Beyond Meat: Our Rapid and Relentless Innovation program consists of more than 200 scientists, chefs, engineers and managers that are solely focused on innovating and renovating our products towards our ultimate goal of building meat from plants that is completely indistinguishable from its animal protein equivalent while being better for people and the planet. 

While it is relatively easy to add more fat to make foods more delicious, the real challenge is to make products taste better while simultaneously making them better for you. Just because you can add something, doesn’t mean you should, and our R&D team has found new, optimized ways of combining the protein and fat that allows us to deliver juicy, craveable products while reducing total and saturated fat. 

PG: How popular are these products in terms of sales?

BM: Beyond Meat is the No. 1-selling plant-based meat brand in the refrigerated category in retail, and the Beyond Burger is the No. 1-selling plant-based burger in the refrigerated category in retail (SPINS). Beyond Meat’s products are available in 135,000 retail and foodservice outlets in more than 90 countries globally.

To meet growing consumer interest in plant-based meat, Beyond Meat is working to increase accessibility to its products, most recently announcing key distribution wins including significantly expanding distribution of Cookout Classic [burgers] to over 10,000 stores nationwide and expanded availability of Beyond Chicken Tenders at over 8,000 new outlets nationwide, including grocer, pharmacy and club stores.

PG: What attracts customers to these products?

BM: Our target consumers are flexitarians or, as we like to call them, Conflicted Carnivores. Health is usually the primary driver to the category, but over the past few years, we have seen more people — particularly younger consumers — turn to plant-based meat for environmental reasons. Concerns for our planet have reached the mainstream consciousness, and people are increasingly drawing the connection between food and climate change. We’re proud to offer consumers a simple, everyday solution that enables them to continue eating the foods they love, but [to] do so in a way that’s better for them and better for the planet, [with] no sacrifice required. 

PG: What recent products of this type have you recently introduced at retail?

BM: Our most recent innovation in our chicken platform is Beyond Chicken Tenders, which initially launched last summer and gained expanded distribution in the spring. Just this week, Beyond Chicken Tenders received People Magazine’s 2022 Food Award for best plant-based chicken, a key recognition of our R&D team’s hard work to create the absolutely best-tasting plant-based chicken product. Beyond Chicken Tenders come in 8-ounce packages with an manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $4.99.

PG: What are the best ways to market and merchandise these products at retail so as to raise awareness of them?

BM: The Beyond Burger was first launched in 2016 and revolutionized the category as the first plant-based burger designed to look, cook and taste like animal meat, and sold in the meat case alongside beef. To get mainstream consumers on board with the idea of plant-based meat, it was critical that our products be sold in the meat case so that consumers could find our products where they already shopped for their protein. 

PG: What do you see as the next phase in alternative proteins?

BM: When it comes to plant-based meat, consumers are looking for delicious, convenient, healthy and sustainable options. Through our Rapid and Relentless Innovation program, we’ll continue to innovate and renovate across our three product platforms – beef, pork and poultry – as we work to build meat from plants that’s completely indistinguishable from its animal protein equivalent. Any item you currently see in the meat case is a potential innovation target for Beyond Meat, including highly anticipated innovation moonshots like whole-muscle steak and chicken, and bacon. 

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