The Bell-Ringer WEEK for Fake Meat

by Kayla Sargent

“It has been a WEEK (yes, the all-caps kind) for the world of plant-based meat and dairy,” Good Food Institute Content Specialist Mary Allen wrote.  A culmination of “wins” for the “fake meat” industry stacked up last week, prompting this quote that would leave anti-agriculture activists feeling encouraged and agricultural producers feeling threatened.

One of the biggest announcements came from Burger King, whom just one month after the Impossible Whopper pilot program, decided to rollout the soy-based burger nationwide.  There are roughly 7,200 Burger Kings in America, easily doubling the current restaurant offering of the Impossible Burger overnight with their decision.  In fact, it’s such a large deal for the Impossible Foods company, that they reportedly had to create a new production line dedicated specifically to the Impossible Whopper, which the company advertises as “100 percent Whopper, zero percent beef.”

Also in the past seven days, McDonald’s Germany launched the Big Vegan TS — another plant-based “burger” made by Nestle called the Incredible Burger.  While McDonalds in the U.S. have yet to offer vegetarian protein alternatives, internationally the company already offers a plant-based Happy Meal in the U.K., veggie nuggets in Norway, and the McVegan burger in Sweden and Finland.

White Castle got in on the “WEEK for plant-based meat and dairy” by initiating a search for a “plant-based cheese” to top off their “Impossible Slider.”  White Castle has been serving a plant-based version of their popular burger sliders, also made by Impossible Foods, in approximately 400 U.S. locations since late last year.  Finding a “vegan cheese” would make the offering 100 percent plant-based — earning White Castle the title of “first major chain restaurant to add a fully adorned, 100 percent plant-based burger to its menu,” Allen reported.

Rounding out the WEEK of wins for the fake meat industry, was the well-received Initial Public Offering (IPO) of Beyond Meat on the Nasdaq Stock Market.  This is another startup plant-based protein company whose mission is to “create The Future of Protein by shifting from animal, to plant-based meat” and help “create one savory solution that solves four growing issues attributed to livestock production: human health, climate change, constraints on natural resources, and animal welfare.”

Celebrating the self-proclaimed “Beyond Day” on May 3, Beyond Meat partnered with Carls Jr., Veggie Grill, Del Taco, Bareburger, and Epic Burger to offer free “Beyond Burgers” and “Beyond Tacos” to thank their customers and supporters.  In the IPO on May 2, shares were traded at $46 each and trading soared 135 percent, making the company’s market value $3.52 billion. As of press time, stock was trading at $81, up 8.62 percent from closing on the day of their IPO.

“Today we become the first plant-based food company to list on Nasdaq, marking an important milestone in our mission of making plant-based meat accessible globally,” Beyond Meat founder and CEO Ethan Brown said.  “With this progress we are one step closer towards becoming the generation that separates meat from animals, unlocking the next era in the American story of innovation, disruption, and growth. Our goal is for people everywhere to have access to the health and environmental benefits of our delicious plant-based meats.”

Nasdaq Stock Exchange President Nelson Griggs wished the company a successful future and said he was excited to partner with them.  “We have no doubt they will continue to disrupt the food industry,” he added.

That’s exactly what Brown hopes Beyond Meat will do in the future.  In an interview on CNBC’s “Fast Money: Halftime Report” minutes after stock began to trade, Brown said their focus isn’t on competing plant-based companies, but rather the meat industry.

“We really don’t focus on the plant-based meat sector as much as we focus on the meat sector itself. That’s a $1.4 trillion industry with just incredible diversity and potential globally,” Brown said.  “The consumer is moving most quickly away from beef and pork.”

In his interview, Brown cited the World Health Organization report that links processed meats to cancer as one reason U.S. consumers may choose to cut down on meat consumption. Beyond health concerns, popular media reports and opinions have noted that plant-based proteins are a better choice due to animal welfare and environmental concerns.

“We’re just looking forward to building the business and I think the reaction from the market is a reflection of the fact that we’re highly focused on collapsing the gap between our products and animal protein,” Brown concluded.


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