By Kerri Adams, Editor-at-Large
We are amidst a food revolution. Today's educated consumer wants to know what exactly is in their food, where it's source, and what the nutritional information is.
Alternative proteins are on the rise, but not only because more are gravitating to vegetarian and vegan lifestyles. Meat has a much bigger water footprint than grains, vegetable or beans. It takes more than 2,400 gallons of water to produce just 1 pound of meat, according to PETA.
Not to mention, the meat industry has a negative connotation. The media has exposed unsavory practices at slaughterhouses since the early 20th century.
You would think that this paired with the consumer's increasing interest in sourcing, that the meat industry would want to be more transparent. But, this doesn't seem to be the case.
"It's now harder to find out where your beef or pork was born, raised and slaughtered," wrote "The Associated Press" in January. "After more than a decade of wrangling, Congress repealed a labeling law last month that required retailers to include the animal's country of origin on packages of red meat. It's a major victory for the meat industry, which had fought the law in Congress and the courts since the early 2000s."
This will only encourage consumers to explore other protein options.
Luckily, there are an array of emerging alternative protein brands, including Beyond Meat that are appealing to these eaters with innovative products.
This company's products include burger patties, "chicken" strips, and "beef" crumble– all made out of plants, non-GMO soy and pea protein. They even have a burger that bleeds, but this is merely just beet juice.
"Whether you're looking to make tacos for the family, gameday munchies for your friends, or a hearty, healthy meal for yourself, Beyond Meat's 100% plant-based products are perfect for any occasion. Click below to learn more about each of our products and discover The Future of Protein® today!" according to the company's website.
We sat down with Will Schafer, the marketing director at Beyond Meat to see how the company is helping to mold the future of food.
What makes your products innovative?
Schafer: Let's take our recently introduced Beyond Burger as an example. There are three things that I feel make it innovative. First is just how ground-breaking it is from a sheer product attribute standpoint. It's the first plant-based burger that looks, cooks, and truly satisfies like a beef burger. It also delivers on important ingredient and nutrient attributes consumers are looking for. It has 20 grams of plant-based protein, but also, importantly, has no soy, gluten, or GMOs. We've been able to develop something that is literally sensational as a product and still checks the box for some of the important food integrity elements consumer care about.
The second thing that makes The Beyond Burger innovative is how we're going about merchandising it. It's the first plant-based burger to be to sold in the meat section of grocery stores. This is good for our retail partners, who are seeing incremental sales, as well as for consumers. We're seeing about 70% of the people buying the Beyond Burger are carnivores--meat lovers who for the most part, had no idea something like The Beyond Burger existed. That's hugely exciting because that is precisely our ambition as a company -- to make plant based meat so good it satisfies the carnivores.
The third innovative element, I feel, is simply how we talk about what we're doing with consumers--sharing our mission, and the benefits of plant-based protein. We sincerely love meat as a company, we just don't like the bad stuff that comes with the traditional way of creating meat using an animal. Framing it as a delicious option with upsides seems to be resonating with those seeking more choices for their source of protein.
What do your customers like the most about it?
Schafer: In a nutshell, it gives them the opportunity to continue to eat the traditional "meaty" dishes they love, while feeling great about the upsides of plant based protein, mainly the health, environmental, and animal welfare benefits.
Our perspective is that it's really hard to change people's minds about things. It's easier to work with and shape their behavior by offering a superior alternative. From the landline to the mobile phone and model T to Tesla, this is the story of innovation. People like meat, so why not give them the meaty dishes they love, but just try to bypass the bad stuff? That's the idea with using plant-protein to create a juicy, delicious burger that looks, sizzles, drips and delights like a beef burger.
In your opinion, what is the future of food?
Schafer: We believe the future of food is increasingly plant-based. In a recent interview with Fox Business News, Tom Hayes, CEO of Tyson Foods--who last year bought a 5% stake in Beyond Meat--shared that he could see plant-based protein playing an increasing part in the future of food. This is really exciting. Big food means the potential for big impact. Tyson touches 2 out of every 5 meals in America. Tyson has taken a stake in offering consumers greater choice around protein options. This is so smart and just good business.
Beyond Meat's vision for The Future of Protein is in part anchored in the efficiency of converting protein from plants directly into plant based meat as opposed to passing it through a cow, pig, or chicken. With scale, this more direct approach for creating meat can bring down costs for protein providers worldwide and decrease risks around supplying protein to the ultimately 90 billion people we're going to have on the planet by 2050.
Beyond Meat isn't the only company making a difference and changing the future of food.
Some other honorable mentions include Impossible Foods, which makes a plant-based burger that looks like juicy beef burger, Follow Your Heart offers Vegan diary alternatives like Vegan cheese, eggs, dressings and sauces and Hampton Creek, known for it's plant-based compliments with products like mayo, dressing, cookies, and cookie dough.