Yet Another Plant-Based Burger
The Impossible and Beyond Meat Burgers are here to stay and Cargill's response to create their own version proves it. The successful implementation and growth of the Beyond Meat burger and the Impossible Burger has become the envy of meat processing and manufacturing companies. Since their introduction, we have seen a large increase in the demand for these products, especially in the fast-food market.
First up was A&W adopting the Beyond Meat burger as a means of increasing their public commitment to sustainability. They were quickly followed by Tim Hortons, Wendy’s, Harveys and McDonald’s. Although a little late jumping on board, McDonald’s now has a “P.L.T” that is slowly rolling out in test markets. In a tight supplier contract race, it was Beyond Meat who won the deal after Impossible Foods dropped out citing a desire to increase their scale before launching into such a large partnership.
This is all to capture the growing trend of “flexitarians”. Flexitarians, as described in another Food Focus article, are Canadians who are eating less meat overall, but have not cut out meat entirely. Much of the doubt around the market potential for capturing vegans, vegetarians, flexitarians and those looking to reduce their meat consumption in general has quickly subsided amid such success.
Companies that have been able to take advantage of this large consumer segment are seeing an increasing opportunity to approach vegetarians and vegans that have historically been out of reach for fast-food chains and meat processors. With the increasing trend to reduce meat consumption, there is an opportunity to provide meat-free options beyond fish and salads. Products such as Beyond Meat or Impossible Burgers are a way to retain those customers looking to reduce their meat consumption while simultaneously gaining foot traffic from those consumers who would traditionally pass on meat-focused fast food. It is important to mention that these new consumers are not walking in looking for a healthy option – they more so want something that is both quick and tasty.
There is another emerging technology in meat; lab-grown or cultured meat. This novel technology is currently extremely costly, but I imagine it will eventually settle to a marketplace acceptable cost. For example, Perfect Day, a U.S company, produces a lab-cultured ice cream that costs roughly $20.00 a pint. The price is high and will likely prevent some customers from trying it or purchasing it regularly once it is more widely available. At the same time, there is a market for this type of product as they sold out shortly after releasing the first batch.
Lab-grown meat or dairy would potentially satisfy a number of issues voiced by vegans, vegetarians and flexitarians alike, mainly the environmental sustainability piece (although this does admittedly ignore other issues such as ethical objections that may arise with lab-grown meat). This technology has a long way to go but may suggest that plant-based protein options are more of a stopgap for the potential of lab-grown meat for anyone who values those attributes.
Recommended Citation Format: Baynham, A. "Yet Another Plant-Based Burger". Food Focus Guelph (75), Department of Food, Agricultural and Resource Economics, University of Guelph, March 9th, 2020.