Each year, Ikea sells more than a billion meatballs at its in-store restaurants. But the furniture company is now hoping to convince more customers to choose a plant-based version instead. In August, it will launch a new “plant ball” in European stores. U.S. stores will follow in September.
The company first started experimenting with plant-based meatballs in 2014, though the new recipe, made with a mix of yellow pea protein, oats, potatoes, onions, and apples, looks and tastes more like its traditional beef-and-pork version. (Ikea will still continue to offer its first veggie meatball, which wasn’t designed to mimic meat.) The cost for the dish—$1.25 for a side, or $5.99 with a plate that comes with mashed potatoes, lingonberries, and vegetables—is the same as the meat option. Making the snack from plants shrinks its carbon footprint to just 4% of the original meatball.
It’s one part of Ikea’s larger ambition to be “climate positive” by 2030, meaning that it will reduce more greenhouse gas emissions than it emits. That involves changes in how it buys energy (the company has invested in renewable energy plants that now produce more energy than it uses) and shifts to services like electric delivery. It also involves more radical changes in the business model as the company wrestles with how to become circular—renting furniture, for example, so it can refurbish, repair, and recycle products that might otherwise end up in landfills. Reinventing how it sells its thousands of products will have the largest impact on its goals.
But food is one piece of the challenge. Even though food makes up a small fraction of Ikea’s overall carbon footprint, the cafes in its stores make it one of the world’s largest restaurant chains. The Swedish meatball is one of the iconic items on the menu, but the new plant ball is likely to sell well: The first veggie meatball accounted for 15% of total meatball sales.