Updated March 15, 2020 | The brand making some of the meatiest vegan products around is leading a plant-based revolution to sustainable food production and beyond.
Launched in 2009, Beyond Meat has come a long way since it was selling a few vegan chicken products in Wholefoods. In the last decade, the trailblazing brand has expanded its plant-based range and is now being served in popular chain restaurants across the world with some help from a team of prestigious, not to mention famous, investors.
The California-based company, founded by Ethan Brown, spent four years developing its first product (soy chicken), which hit store shelves in 2013. Beyond Meat launched a plant-based burger in 2014 and finally perfected its porkless vegan sausages in 2018.
As the Columbia Business School graduate, Brown, writes on the company’s website: “At Beyond Meat, we started with simple questions. Why do you need an animal to create meat? Why can’t you build meat directly from plants? It turns out you can. So we did.”
He continued, “We hope our plant-based meats allow you and your family to eat more, not less of the traditional dishes you love while feeling great about the health, sustainability and animal welfare benefits of plant protein. Together, we can truly bring exciting change to the plate – and beyond.”
In 2019, the brand well and truly hit the mainstream when it dominated headlines for its Initial Public Offering (IPO). In May 2019, it became the first-ever vegan meat brand to launch an IPO. It was initially priced at $25 per share, it closed its first day at $65 a share, and by the end of May, shares soared to $100. The start-up’s valuation jumped from $1.2 billion to $3.8 billion.
By the end of the year, the brand expects revenues to exceed $240 million; 170 percent growth since 2018.
The future is bright for the business-savvy company. It is constantly coming out with new products to make cooking without meat easier and tastier.
Speaking to Forbes, Brown revealed that the brand intends to produce up to 30 different kinds of plant-based protein. Earlier this year, Beyond Meat announced to CNBC that it aims to produce plant-based bacon and steak.
It also has its eyes on the Asian market. Before the end of 2020, it aims to start production on the continent. It currently sells its burgers in Singapore, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, but it’s on a mission to crack the Chinese market too.
Executive chairman Seth Goldman said in a statement at a food conference in Chicago, “we know that to get to China and to do it the right way, it’s going to take scale, it’s going to take a manufacturing presence in that area.”
Beyond Meat and Meat Eaters
At supermarkets across the globe, Beyond Meat products are stocked alongside animal-based meat in the meat fridges.
While this may seem unusual for a vegan product, the very deliberate strategy is designed to make vegan food more accessible; having it beside conventional protein sources makes it just another option rather than a distinct alternative.
In fact, during an interview with non-profit organization Animal Charity Evaluators, Brown stated that it is “meat reducers“ who are the company’s target market. In an interview with CNBC earlier this year, Brown revealed that 93 percent of people buying the Beyond Burger are omnivores.
According to recent research by The NPD Group, 86 percent of consumers who purchase vegan products also eat meat.
Beyond Meat and the Environment
By bringing plant-based food out of the artisanal vegan cafes and into the mainstream market, Beyond Meat has helped raise awareness of the environmental impact of animal agriculture.
As the company points out on its website, 51 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions are driven by livestock rearing and processing. Further proof of the burger’s environmental superiority over its meaty counterparts comes from research conducted by the University of Michigan’s Center for Sustainable Resources. The research showed that producing a Beyond Burger requires 99 percent less water and 93 percent less land than producing a meat burger. That’s a lot of reasons to give peas a chance.
Beyond Meat’s commitment to developing food that produces lower carbon emissions and uses a fraction of the Earth’s resources has gained the brand considerable recognition in the environmentalist sphere.
In 2018, Beyond Meat was named one of the UN Environment’s “Champions of the Earth.” This title was awarded by keen anti-climate change advocate Alec Baldwin at a special UN Environment awards ceremony last September.
The American company has raised the profile of plant-based eating further again by gaining a number of famous investors.
Microsoft founder and IT industry giant Bill Gates invested an eye-watering $75 million in the company in August 2017.
Beyond Meat also counts Twitter founder Biz Stone and environmentalist superstar Leonardo DiCaprio among its celebrity shareholders. It also boasts vegan athlete Kyrie Irving as a brand ambassador. NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal and 13 other sports pros—including Irving—have also invested in the vegan meat brand.
As well as being one of Beyond Meat’s most famous fans, Snoop Dogg is also an investor.
The rapper frequently promotes the brand; in May, he spent the day driving around the Beyond Meat truck and serving its burgers in celebration of its stock market success. He posted about its partnership with KFC on his Instagram, claiming the whole thing was his idea.
He says in the video, “man I’m hungry. All this chicken stuff going around, I don’t know if I want some of that though. I’m calling my homeboy at Beyond Meat to see if we can put something together. I’ve got a cool little idea right here. See if he can make this thing happen.”
Beyond Meat also partnered with Dunkin’ Donuts last year, which Snoop Dogg was equally enthusiastic about. He even served the Beyond Sausage to unsuspecting customers in one of the chain’s locations in Los Angeles.
6 Beyond Meat Products That Are Taking Over
As a company intent on bettering the planet one dinner plate at a time, Beyond Meat neatly avoids being polemic or making people feel guilty about fancying a late-night drive-thru. Instead, the environmentalist brand focuses on the positive impact of eating plant-based and has developed facsimile vegan products to please everyone. Here are six of the company’s products.
1. Beyond Burger
Truly the jewel in Beyond Meat’s crown is the Beyond Burger. This soy-free burger gets its fleshy texture from pea protein isolate and bamboo cellulose, which is flavored with spices. This groundbreaking “bleeding” burger is so packed with plant-based goodness it actually oozes moisture when cut, thanks to the inclusion of beetroot extract. In the first two years after launching its succulent patty, Beyond Meat sold more than 11 million burgers.
The burger was such a resounding success in the US, that by 2018 it was being served up in nine major restaurants including Bare Burger and TGI Fridays. When it arrived at A&W Canada, it helped the fast-food chain boost sales by 10 percent.
It can be found in pubs, restaurants, and supermarkets all over the world, including Target and the UK’s biggest supermarket chain Tesco. Even McDonald’s serves the “bleeding” patty. In September, the fast-food giant teamed up with the vegan brand to launch the vegan P.L.T. (plant, lettuce, tomato) burger in 28 Canadian locations.
If you’re wondering if the P.L.T. will be coming to a McDonald’s near you anytime soon, you might be in luck. Brown is positive about the partnership. Speaking about the trial in Canada, he told Yahoo Finance, “everything I am seeing, I feel very optimistic about the long-term relationship with McDonald’s. If we are successful in this test — which everything is pointing in that direction — we should see a national expansion.”
2. Beyond Sausage
The Beyond Sausage is said to be the “world’s first plant-based sausage that looks, sizzles, and satisfies like pork.”
Available in two flavors – Brat Original and Hot Italian, which both pack 16 grams of protein – the vegan sausage contains no soy, gluten, or GMOs. It’s made with pea protein isolate, coconut and sunflower oil, and faba bean protein. The sausage’s casings are made of alginate, which is obtained from algae.
Compared to its meat counterpart, the Beyond Sausage contains 38 percent less saturated fat and 43 percent less total fat. It also has no hormones, nitrites, nitrates, or cholesterol.
“Our belief is that the best way to get people to eat less meat is by giving them what they love–in this case, a juicy delicious sausage – without so many of the health, sustainability, and animal welfare downside of a traditional animal-based sausage,” Beyond Meat writes on its website.
Earlier this year, the Beyond Sausage made its UK debut. It is on the menu at Neat Burger, Lewis Hamilton’s vegan fast-food restaurant in London. It is also available in Tesco supermarkets.
3. Beyond Beef
Another member of the Beyond Meat family is Beyond Beef, which is different from its crumbles and resembles the taste, texture, and versatility of ground beef.
The chewy, juicy bite of the vegan meat comes from its plant-based pea, mung bean, and rice proteins. Per serving, it provides 20 grams of protein and just 6 grams of saturated fat, beating out animal-based beef in both counts.
The product can be included in spaghetti bolognese, used to stuff tacos, or shaped into vegan burger patties or meatballs.
Florida BBQ chain 4 Rivers Smokehouse serves Beyond Beef in the form of Vegan Beyond Burnt Ends. The beef is double smoked and slow-roasted in the same way the chain’s animal products are.
4. Beyond Breakfast Sausage
A new arrival to the Beyond Meat team is its plant-based breakfast sausage.
A&W Canada serves it in a sandwich called Beyond Meat Sausage and Egger. The A&W creation is served with egg and dairy-based cheese but the company notes that customers looking to eat plant-based can order the Beyond Meat Sausage & Veggie which includes the vegan breakfast sausage, lettuce, and tomato, all served on an English muffin. It is also available at Dunkin’ restaurants across the U.S. Hardee’s launched a Beyond Sausage breakfast sandwich last December.
As of March 2020, Starbucks Canada now carries a vegetarian breakfast sandwich made with the Beyond Meat sausage patty. Two flavors—Classic and Spicy—are now available in the frozen section of select retailers, including ACME, ShopRite, Whole Foods, Wegmans, Albertsons, and Vons.
5. Beyond Beef Crumbles
Beyond Beef Crumbles offer a “beefy kick” to recipes like tacos, nachos, lasagne, and meatballs, according to the company.
It comes in flavors “feisty” and “beefy.” A serving of this plant-powered food delivers 13 grams of protein and just three grams of fat. Made from peas, mung beans, and brown rice, the crumbles are free from soy, gluten, and GMOs.
Mexican food chain Chronic Tacos, which has restaurants in the U.S. and Canada, teamed up with Beyond Meat to add its Beef Crumbles to the menu. “Bringing Beyond Meat into our stores really enhances The Taco Life experience that we provide for our guests and we’re excited to have a delicious and healthy plant-based option as part of that,” said Michael Mohammed, Chronic Tacos CEO, in a statement. The plant-based beef is available at all of Chronic Tacos’ 51 U.S. locations.
Perhaps even more excitingly, the Beyond Beef Crumble is now also available at Del Taco restaurants across the country. As well as dedicated menu options created with the plant protein, it can be substituted into most other menu options.
The brand tested the menu options on meat-eaters, such as a butcher, bodybuilders and a taco food truck owner. Comments overwhelmingly focused on how similar to meat the crumble tastes, with one bodybuilder saying “I would totally eat this all day!“
6. Beyond Chicken?
Beyond Meat’s chicken strips were the company’s first product — and its first big failure, according to the brand. In mid-2019, customers began questioning the products’ absence in stores. The FAQ section of the Beyond Meat website informed the public that the product had been discontinued. “Unfortunately, our Chicken Strips weren’t delivering the same plant-based meat experience as some of our more popular products,” it read.
However, vegan chicken may be in the company’s future. In August, KFC trialed vegan chicken at one location in Atlanta. A statement from Beyond Meat revealed that the trial was a huge success. KFC sold more vegan chicken in five hours than the amount of popcorn chicken it would sell in a week. People lined up around the block, waiting up to two hours, to get a taste.
Where to Buy Beyond Meat
Beyond Meat is available in around 35,000 locations in more than 20 countries, Forbes says. Here are but a few:
- Coles – Australia
- IGA – Australia
- Lord of the Fries – Australia
- Ribs & Burgers – Australia
- Delhaize – Belgium
- Albert Heijn – Belgium & The Netherlands
- A&W – Canada
- Choices Markets – Canada
- Co-op Food Stores – Canada
- Fresh Street Market – Canada
- IGA – Canada
- Loblaws – Canada
- Lone Star Texas Grill – Canada
- Longos – Canada
- Metro – Canada
- Panago Pizza – Canada
- Save On Foods – Canada
- Sobeys – Canada
- Starbucks – Canada
- Subway – Canada
- Whole Foods Market – Canada
- Quesada Burritos & Tacos – Canada
- Casino Group – France
- Lidl – Germany
- Metro (Wholesale) – Germany
- The Butcher’s Club – Hong Kong
- Green Common – Hong Kong
- Hong Kong International Airport – Hong Kong
- Paulpetta – Monza, Italy
- The Cruelty Free Shop – New Zealand
- Pristine Solutions (Wholesale) – Philipines
- Apolónia – Portugal
- Bread Street Kitchen – Singapore
- Grand Hyatt – Singapore
- VeganBurg – Singapore
- TGI Fridays – Taiwan
- Bareburger – United Arab Emirates
- Aldi – U.S.
- Bareburger – U.S.
- BurgerFi – U.S.
- Carl’s Jr. – U.S.
- Chronic Tacos – U.S.
- Costco – U.S.
- Del Taco – U.S.
- Dunkin’ – U.S.
- Epic Burger – U.S.
- Golden Road Brewing – U.S.
- Hardee’s – U.S.
- Kroger – U.S.
- Next Level Burger – U.S.
- Safeway – U.S.
- Target – U.S.
- TGI Fridays – U.S.
- Taco Del Mar – U.S.
- Twin Peaks – U.S.
- Veggie Grill – U.S.
- Walmart – U.S.
- All Bar One – U.K.
- Halo Burger – U.K.
- Honest Burgers – U.K.
- Tesco – U.K.
- Neat Burgers – U.K.
Video credit to credit to Roxy Velez and the Vexquisit team.