The World's Most Innovative Companies 2017
If it looks, cooks, and tastes like a burger, perhaps a plant-based beef alternative should be sold alongside should be sold alongside all the other cuts in your grocer’s meat case. Especially if it “bleeds” beet juice. That’s the case that Beyond Meat successfully made in 2016 after releasing its ready-to-cook Beyond Burger. The starts-pink patty is both more eco-friendly than a traditionally ground round and healthier: It contains the about same amount of protein, roughly twice the iron, nearly half the saturated fat, and no cholesterol.
Since Whole Foods took the product national, the Beyond Burger has been selling out in many markets. “It really is a continuation of something that we had in mind since starting the company in 2009,” CEO Ethan Brown says. “That the consumer needs to be able to make the decision about plant meat versus animal meat in the meat case itself and not to have to travel to that penalty box by frozen meat alternatives.” To create a tasty-enough patty, Beyond Meat has taken lessons from three other pre-cooked offerings—chicken strips, beef crumbles, and a “beast” burger released in as many years. It’s all a part of the company’s “last experiment first” mentality. Whereas the company once leveraged existing university research, it now fields its own chef and science teams and is nearing completion of a campus-size R&D facility near Manhattan Beach, California (code-name: The Manhattan Beach Project).
Beyond Burger is selling 10 times faster than any other company product. That’s attracted investment from Tyson, an alliance that Brown hopes to use to increase his traditional meat-case placements and win more mindshare. Look for the company to eventually move into other meat replacements—potentially faux meatloaf, ground chuck, sausages, and bacon. “We don’t want them to give it up, we just want to be the first to develop it,” Brown says of turning traditional meat lovers into Beyond Meat disciples. The company remains hungry “to change the system from within, rather than throw rocks at it.”