Not everyone believes that plant-based burgers are healthy. I mentioned Beyond Burger the other day and someone started talking about all the chemicals.
If you were to list the chemical makeup of organic Kobe beef, this would be a super long list of really long, complicated words that most of us couldn’t pronounce. All the amino acids, all the different lactic acids, all the components that help hold a piece of muscle together in an animal’s body. We cannot afford the luxury of just saying “vegetable beef”. So we have to list our ingredients. But it’s not like there are more ingredients in ours than actual muscles, if you break down the chemistry.
We have a very large established industry that knows this is a big issue for us. There was a full-page ad in the New York Times listing all the products in the category and listing the gnarliest ingredients and saying, “That’s what’s in plant-based meat.” So it is ignited. Competitive interests attract a lot of attention around this topic.
Is the meat industry after you?
No. Tyson was part of our company for a while. It’s a $ 1.4 trillion industry, and I think they’re doing pretty well right now. If you look at our sales this year, they are good, but very small compared to the meat industry. So I think there are bags that are kind of antagonistic, but not as a whole.
How is Beyond Meat different from Impossible Foods?
It all depends on the choice of ingredients. I believe that everything you need to perfectly build a piece of meat out of plants is already there in nature and you just have to search hard enough to find it. Impossible takes a different route. They are genetically modified ingredients. And we just won’t do that.
How do you balance all of your fast food partnerships with your focus on health?
I love these clients, and I think it’s about making incremental profits. Obviously, if it’s fried, it’s fried. But if you look at the underlying properties of the product – cholesterol levels, saturated fat levels – do you get a profit? And in many cases you are. It’s progress.
However, is it an uncomfortable alliance for you?
I value these relationships. I think there is a changing of the guard going on in a lot of these companies and these are people who really offer healthier products and want to bring the consumer with them. There is a real desire to keep improving the health profile of their menus. I think it’s sincere.