Plant-Based Brands Struggle in a Crowded Market

Plant-based meat has transformed into a billion dollar industry over the past decade, and market space for new and emerging brands is growing increasingly limited. According to Nielsen data, annual plant-based sales rose 42 percent to $888 million from March 2016 to March 2019. And with major companies like Tyson Foods, Perdue, Nestlé, and Conagra now offering their own versions of the concept, competition is fiercer than ever.

As reported in June, Tyson Foods became the largest meat producer to join the plant-based segment with the launch of its meat alternative brand Raised & Rooted. The new brand offers blended meat burgers and chicken nuggets composed of pea protein. Tyson Foods had previously invested—and, two months prior to the launch of Raised & Rooted, divested—in plant-based producer Beyond Meat.

Seth Goldman, executive chairman for Beyond Meat, is not afraid of the large corporations infiltrating the plant-based market. He maintains that only quality, tasteful brands will last in the long-term. “At some point, not all those products are going to make it on the shelf. Not all of them are going to stay on the shelf.”

However, Goldman readily admits that he and other plant-based brands did not think the market would become so competitive so rapidly. “The acceleration in plant based is just taken everyone by surprise,” adds Goldman. “It's been far quicker and more aggressive and more robust than anyone expected it to be. We always believed it would go to this level. It's just surprising how quickly that has happened.”

Founded in 2009, Beyond Meat went public earlier this year. As a smaller, plant-focused company, the brand is able to quickly revamp products in response to customer feedback, current scientific understanding, and technological capabilities. Beyond Meat enjoys numerous lucrative partnerships with such restaurant and fast food chains as Dunkin’, Subway, and TGI Fridays. The company recently added plant-based sausage and chicken options to its menu.

Meanwhile, Nestlé will release the plant-based Awesome Burger to shelves this fall. Perdue has already seen success with its plant-based chicken nuggets, and Conagra is increasingly promoting and investing in its meat alternative brand Gardein.

And what lies next in terms of plant-based innovation? "Nothing is off the table,” says Goldman. “Anything that is a meat-based occasion is fair game."