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."

Dunkin’ Partners with Beyond Meat for a Plant-Based Breakfast

Dunkin’ is adding plant-based meat to its menu. The fast food chain has partnered with plant-based meat producer Beyond Meat to offer the brand new Beyond Sausage Breakfast Sandwich.

As of yesterday, the sandwich is already available to purchase in 163 Manhattan locations. The chain appears poised to offer the sandwich nationwide in each of its 9,400 Dunkin’ locations by 2020. According to Dunkin’, this is the first time a Beyond Meat breakfast sandwich has ever been sold in any restaurant in the United States.

In an interview with Yahoo Finance, CEO David Hoffmann affirmed the company’s commitment to the product. “We absolutely believe this will move the sales needle for us. It’s a damn good product.”

Dunkin’ is responding to a growing consumer demand for plant-based meat products. And Dunkin’ is hardly the first fast food chain to recognize and invest in the concept: White Castle, Red Robin, Burger King, Little Caesars, and a number of other businesses have also partnered with plant-based giants like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods. With plant-based now a billion dollar industry, it has become clear to restaurants large and small that meat substitutes are well worth investing in.

The Plant Based Foods Association reports that over the past year, plant-based meat sales has gone up by 10 percent, while refrigerated plant-based meat has gone up by 37 percent. Beyond Meat stock has also surged post-IPO by a whopping 734 percent according to Business Insider.

Hoffmann noted to CNN that for now, the company is still in the process of considering vegan sandwiches. “Right now we’re targeting flexitarians,” says Hoffmann. “[We] want to make sure that as we roll this out, we can give the customer a chance to customize this.”

Big Food is Fostering Innovation

Large corporations have been noticing how consumers have been favoring products made by independent startup food companies, since a good chunk of those provide craft, high-quality, niche, and, a lot of times, healthier products.

Needless to say, big food wants in. Especially, since this specialty food segment has a tremendous growth potential.

So, how is big food seeking innovation?

Companies like Campbell Soup, Chobani, Kellogg, Kraft Heinz, Nestlé, PepsiCo, and Tyson Foods are creating innovation centers and/or partnering with existing incubators to help niche brands grow and flourish.

PepsiCo

Pepsico’s new center for innovation is called “The Hive.”

According to Food Dive, “this incubator will be a separate entrepreneurial group outside of the core headquarters that will help nurture niche products already in the portfolio,” like for example Stubborn Soda.

As Foodable has reported in the past, PepsiCo also partnered with a Chicago-based, food and beverage incubator, The Hatchery, in order to look at other startup brands that have the potential of becoming a possible venture for the beverage giant.

Tyson Foods

Earlier this year, Tyson Foods announced that it will be working with two incubators—Plug and Play and 1871—linking the food giant to innovation hailing from Silicon Valley and Chicago.

That’s not the first time Tyson showed it’s commitment for innovation. In fact, the company launched a venture capital fund in late 2016 “to invest in companies developing breakthrough technologies, business models and products to sustainably feed the growing world population,” according to the company website.

Since then, Tyson has invested in brands like for example Beyond Meat, that promote sustainability and others that promote the internet of food, like FoodLogiq.

Tyson is spearheading innovation through its own brand, ¡Yappah!, which aims to fight food waste by utilizing “forgotten” ingredients like rescued vegetable puree and spent grain to make protein crisps, and investments in companies like Future Meat Technologies, an Israel-based “biotechnology company aiming to transform global meat production through distributive manufacturing of fat and muscle cells, increasing food safety and reducing ecological impact worldwide,” as stated in the company’s website.

Chobani

Chobani is another company looking to foster innovation through its Food Tech Residency. The company set out specific challenges in the food and agriculture value chain they would like to tackle (like food waste, food safety, water conservation, logistics, etc.) and invites like-minded, early-stage tech and agriculture startups to apply for funding.

Currently, the brand is hosting it’s fourth incubator class, since it launched the program in 2016, with companies developing products like tea, hummus and allergen-free baking ingredients. Alongside the food startups, two tech companies will be participating in Chobani’s inaugural Tech Residency Program—CinderBio and Skyven Technologies.

Watch the video above to learn more and stay tuned to other Industry Pulse episodes to keep up with all the innovation happening around your business! To learn about other consumer trends involving sustainability like plant-based meals, watch the video below:

Beyond Meat Goes Public

A few weeks ago, there were rumors that the plant-based company Beyond Meat was planning to go public before the end of the year.

Well, these rumors ended up being true because last Friday, Beyond Meat filed an initial public offering for $100 million.

Beyond Meat reported $56.4 million in revenue for the first nine months of 2018, which is a 167 percent spike from last year.

"Going forward, we intend to continue to invest in innovation, supply chain capabilities, manufacturing and marketing initiatives," said the company in the filing.

The plant-based market is growing at a rapid rate as more consumers gravitate to a vegetarian or flexitarian lifestyle.

Plant-based consumption is up over 300 percent over the last year, according to our Foodable Labs data.

The Good Food Institute (GFI) has also released market data from Nielsen showing that the sales of this sector have recently exceeded $3.7 billion and that plant-based meat sales specifically have increased by 23 percent.

Beyond Meat was one the first companies to offer a vegan burger and quickly emerged as one of the biggest players in the plant-based protein market.

Besides being the first plant-based burger to be sold in the meat section at Whole Foods, the company has partnered with restaurants and food distributors across the country to get the Beyond Burger on more menus.

Beyond Meat has sold over 25 million veggie burgers that are "the closest thing to meat" ever created, boasts the company.

But the company has developed a product mimicking meat for a reason. Its target demographic aren't vegans and vegetarians, instead, it's flexitarians who may eat meat but choose not to often because of its environmental impact.

"Instead of marketing and merchandising The Beyond Burger to vegans and vegetarians (who represent less than 5% of the U.S. population), we request that the product be sold in the meat case at grocery retailers, where meat-loving consumers are accustomed to shopping for center-of-plate proteins," writes the company in the filing.

The Beyond Burger is now available in 11,000 grocery stores across the country.

Read more about Beyond Meat going public at "CNN."

Don’t miss The Barron Report episode below where Paul Barron goes into more detail about the plant-based company’s move to go public.

These Vegan Brands See a Spike in Investor Funding

These Vegan Brands See a Spike in Investor Funding

An array of venture capital firms are seeing a lot of potential in the vegan consumer packaged goods sector, so they are making major investments in some of these companies. 

Beyond Meat has quickly emerged as one of the bigger players in the plant-based protein game. Besides being the first plant-based burger to be sold in the meat section at Whole Foods, the company has attracted investors like Tyson Foods, Bill Gates, and Leonardo Dicaprio, along with vegan-focused venture firms like Stray Dog Capital, New Crop Capital, and PowerPlant Ventures. 

“We’ve seen a real explosion in new venture capital firms focused specifically on the food space as well as more traditional tech and venture capital investors making some of their first investments into food,” said Zoe Leavitt, a senior intelligence analyst at data firm CB Insights. “As of last year, the sheer number of unique investors participating in the food and beverage space had more than doubled since 2013. There is definitely a lot of excitement there.”

Another vegan company attracting investors is Califia Farms. Dicaprio and other celebrities like Jared Leto have invested in this milk brand. 

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