Beyond Meat CEO reveals why making plant-based 'chicken' was harder than making ground 'beef'

Irene Jiang / Business InsiderBeyond Meat was adamant about developing a product that pulls apart like chicken.
  • On January 29, Beyond Meat and KFC announced an expanded test run of Beyond Fried Chicken.
  • In a recent interview with Business Insider, Beyond Meat CEO Ethan Brown explained why developing the plant-based fried “chicken” was much harder than creating Beyond’s beef alternative products.
  • The muscle structure is of utmost importance when it comes to fried chicken, Brown said.
  • Although Beyond had been working on a plant-based “chicken” with muscle structure since the company’s founding, it was only able to scale manufacturing due to its new partnership with KFC, Brown said.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

On January 29, Beyond Meat and KFC announced that Beyond Fried Chicken would debut in two test markets – Nashville and Charlotte – in February.

In a recent interview with Business Insider, Beyond Meat CEO Ethan Brown explained why developing the plant-based fried “chicken” was much harder than creating Beyond’s beef alternative products.

“One of the key things with poultry is you have to get the muscle structure right,” Brown said. “With something that’s ground, you don’t have to have that same muscle structure, but with chicken, the consumer wants that muscle structure.”

Initially, the two companies tested a formed plant-based “chicken” product that had a texture similar to a chicken nugget. During the nugget product’s test run in Atlanta in summer 2019, it sold out in under five hours. However, both Beyond Meat and KFC decided to invest more time and money into developing a plant-based “chicken” product that would more closely mimic muscle meat.

With the nugget prototype, Brown said, “I think you lose a lot of what’s great about the sensory experience of eating a chicken breast, for example.”

Instead, Beyond was adamant about developing a product that pulls apart like chicken, which required additional research. With KFC’s support in the culinary department, the companies developed a soy-based “chicken” product that does just that.

Brown said that while Beyond Meat has been working on a plant-based “chicken” product with muscle structure since the company was founded, it hasn’t been able to scale manufacturing for it until its partnership with KFC.

“We’re on a very clear path to get to where we’re indistinguishable from animal protein,” Brown said. His goal is to continue improving both the realism and nutritional value of Beyond’s products.

But for now, Brown said, “We still have a long way to go.”

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.