Fake Meat Hot Headlines

Starbucks Steps On Toes

By Kayla Sargent

In an attempt to “migrate toward a more environmentally friendly menu,” Starbucks has made it a priority to add more plant-based options to their menu.  The January 21 announcement was met by a 17 percent spike in Beyond Meat shares that brought it out of a gradual decline that started in September 2019.

The details on just how Starbucks plans to add more plant-based options are still unclear.  According to Reuters, a Starbucks spokeswoman said the company is exploring plant-based “meat” options for their breakfast menu but did not name a brand or product.

The announcement came in a letter to stakeholders in which Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson outlined the company’s goals to reduce carbon emissions, water use, and waste by 2030.  Following plant-based options in the five prioritized strategies were a shift to reusable packaging; investments in regenerative agricultural practices, reforestation, forest conservation, and water replenishment; investment in waste management; and development of more eco-friendly stores.  By 2030, Starbucks hopes to have reduced their carbon emissions, water usage, and waste sent to landfills by 50 percent each.

Shortly following the announcement, a Bloomberg article pinpointed the company’s carbon emissions to the dairy industry.  According to the article, dairy products are Starbucks’ “biggest source of carbon dioxide emissions,” making up 21 percent of its carbon footprint.  Johnson told Bloomberg he’ll urge customers to choose almond-, soy-, or oat-based “milks” in an effort to reach their goal.  Milk used by Starbucks accounts for 0.3 percent of U.S. milk production, according to Bloomberg.

“Alternative milks will be a big part of the solution,” Johnson said.  “The consumer-demand curve is already shifting.”

Dairy Management, Inc. quickly responded, boasting about the industry’s “commitment to environmental sustainability.”  The company’s executive vice president of global environmental strategy Krysta Harden reminded Starbucks that the dairy industry was the first agricultural sector to commission a full lifecycle assessment in 2008.  The assessment found that dairy only accounts for 2 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

“Since then, due to innovative farm practices and new technologies, the environmental impact of producing a gallon of milk in 2017 shrunk significantly since 2008, involving 31 percent less water, 21 percent less land, and a 20 percent smaller carbon footprint,” Harden said.

Beyond their 2030 goals, Starbucks hopes to eventually become “resource-positive” by “storing more carbon than it emits, eliminating waste, and providing more clean, freshwater than it uses,” according to a company press release.  The announcement came just ahead of Starbucks 50th Anniversary in 2021 in which it will formalize its sustainability goals.

Harden suggested that the dairy industry will, in fact, play a major role in meeting those goals.

“Dairy can and will play an important role in achieving sustainability in supply chains and global food production,” she said.  “From an environmental and nutrition standpoint, it is not an either-or, both plants and animals play a critical role in the health of people and the planet.  There is no one-size-fits-all solution to making environmental progress and frankly, it will take public-private partnerships and value-chain collaborations to achieve greater collective and positive impact.  U.S. dairy is committed to doing its part and will soon be sharing a framework for achieving meaningful progress in carbon neutrality, soil and water health.”


Begging to Buy

By Kayla Sargent

Lowering the price of a product may make it more appealing to a consumer.  At least that’s what Burger King is hoping with a recent decision to add the Impossible Whopper to the “2 for $6” discount menu.  According to Bloomberg, sales of the Impossible Whopper, a plant-based version of the traditional Whopper, have dwindled since the product hit nationwide Burger King menus last August.

Carrols Restaurant Group Inc., the largest Burger King franchisee with over 1,000 locations, said sales fell to approximately 28 Impossible Whoppers per store per day.  Upon introduction of the new vegan option, sales were at about 32 per day.

Another Burger King owner in Little Rock, Arkansas reported low sales numbers as well, according to Bloomberg.  Dominic Flis said fewer than 20 Impossible Whoppers are hitting the grills each day in his locations – this is down from the 30 he sold when it was first introduced.

Initially, the Impossible Whopper was sold for $5.59 per patty.  Dropping the price to promote sales is going to make margins tough, Flis told Bloomberg.

Just because sales are slowing doesn’t mean Burger King has plans to rear back on promotions.  According to Bloomberg, Carrols CEO Daniel Accordino told attendees of a conference that more advertisements are to come.

“The plant-based platform will be advertised and will be expanded on the Burger King marketing calendar in 2020,” Accordino said.

Accordino suggested an expansion of the Impossible Whopper product line including an Impossible Whopper Jr. and the Impossible Croissan’wich.  Since adding the plant-based option to menus nationwide, Burger King has launched several promotions to increase sales including free delivery and free Impossible Whopper samples for delayed airport passengers.

As sales continue to dwindle, Burger King still remains confident in offering the option.

Burger King, America, President Chris Finazzo said the Impossible Whopper “continues to exceed expectations, drive traffic to our restaurants and attract new incremental guests,” according to Bloomberg.  “We continue to see high levels of repeat restaurant visits, showing that guests are enjoying the Impossible Whopper and returning from more over and over again.”


The Next Big Thing

By Kayla Sargent

While the chatter about plant-based alternative proteins Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods consumes the media, Memphis Meats has been quietly raising funds to get them one step closer to making cell-based alternative proteins a reality.  Memphis Meats’ mission is to “bring delicious, healthy meat to your table by harvesting it from cells instead of animals.”

While the cell-based products are not yet available, the California-based company plans to utilize the latest rounds of funds to build a pilot production facility.  The most recent round of fundraising, led by SoftBank Group, Norwest and Temasek, generated $161 million.  These new investors were joined by previous backers including Bill Gates, Richard Branson, Cargill, and Tyson, to bring the total funds raised to $180 million since its inception.

The production facility is expected to be constructed within the next 18 to 24 months, according to NPR.  Memphis Meats hopes the new plant will allow for larger scale, experimental production of their product line that, so far, includes chicken, duck, and beef.

Regulation, consumer acceptance, and other hurdles exist in bringing cell-based meats to the market.  Perhaps one of the largest hurdles is that of cost.  A 2018 Wired report said a pound of Memphis Meats cost $2,400 to produce, according to NPR.  Memphis Meats CEO Uma Valeti told NPR production costs have “come down significantly over the last three years.”

The latest round of funding and scaling production is intended, in part, to lower the production cost even more.


Denny’s Dives In

By Kayla Sargent

After a successful trial market, Denny’s recently joined the list of restaurants that offer plant-based “burgers” in nationwide locations.  The diner began offering Beyond Burgers in Los Angeles locations last fall and recently decided to rollout the product to all 1,700 locations in the U.S. and Canada.  To promote the new menu item, Denny’s will offer free Beyond Burgers on January 30 with the purchase of any beverage.

A press release called the initial offering “overwhelmingly successful” and said Denny’s will be the first “family dining” restaurant to offer a “100 percent plant-based protein option.”  The press release said this move will help meet “guests’ desire to move toward a flexitarian diet.”

“We were thrilled to be able to answer the call from our guests to add more plant-based protein options to our menu when we launched the Beyond Burger in Los Angeles at the end of last year.  The positive response we received validated our decision to partner with Beyond Meat to introduce our guests to a plant-based option,” Denny’s chief brand officer John Dillon said.  “We could not be more excited to add the Beyond Burger to our permanent lineup of delicious, affordable menu options as we continue to innovate and expand our menu to meet evolving dietary preferences.”


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