Plant-based burgers are turning the grocery meat aisle into a protein aisle

Meat disruptors.
Meat disruptors.
Image: Courtesy of Beyond Meat
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Less than a year after getting its plant-based burgers into the meat sections at mainstream grocery stores, Beyond Meat is ramping up production.

The Los Angeles-based food company announced this week that it’s raised an additional $55 million in funding, which will allow it to triple the amount of plant-based burger “meat” it makes. An undisclosed amount of that funding came from Tyson Foods, the largest US meat company, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Beyond Meat is now tackling the food industry from three different angles and finding success:

  • Retail: It has products in over 19,000 grocery stores around America, including Kroger, Albertsons, Safeway, Target, and Whole Foods Market locations. Beyond Meat’s retail offerings include chicken strips, beef crumbles, and the Beyond Burger, a pea-protein burger patty sold alongside conventional meat burgers.
  • Restaurants: The burger patty is also now on the menu at a handful of TGI Fridays restaurants, and is expected to be sold at most of the chain’s locations by sometime in 2018.
  • Food Service: Beyond Meat has inked a deal with the food-service giant Sysco, which could help get the Beyond Burger into hotels, small burger restaurants, other restaurant chains, and schools.

Beyond Meat, backed by tech titan Bill Gates and Hollywood actor Leonardo DiCaprio, among other investors, is starting to make take some of the overall market share of meat products away from conventional meat producers. According to Food Navigator, sales of meat alternatives rose more than 6% between 2016 and 2017 to around $554 million. With that kind of growth, the race between Beyond Meat and its chief plant-based competitor, Impossible Foods, is heating up.

Both companies are selling plant-based burgers, but they’ve approached the market with different strategies. While Impossible Foods worked to tap celebrity chefs and get into restaurants, Beyond Meat focused primarily on grocery store placement. That move is starting to slowly transform the meat aisle into a protein aisle, where consumers can choose between meats or plants as the source for the primary protein on their plates.

For years, consumers hungry for convincing alternatives to meat have turned to black bean and mushroom burger options—many of which may taste okay but lack the textural qualities and appearance of conventional meat. This is where Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat step in, each promising to deliver a sustainable alternative to beef that is environmentally friendly and still tastes good.