- Beyond Meat launched a line of vegetarian sausages at a Whole Foods in Colorado on Monday.
- Beyond Meat hopes to mimic the taste and texture of meat.
- The plant-based foods category is growing, making it more important for Beyond Meat to differentiate itself from competitors.
On Monday, food startup Beyond Meat unveiled a line of plant-based sausages.
CEO Ethan Brown told Business Insider that Beyond Sausage will initially sell for $US8 – including a bun and unlimited toppings – at a booth in a Whole Foods in Boulder, Colorado. But the product will eventually expand to more supermarkets, where it will be available in take-home packaging.
Ever since Beyond Meat launched nine years ago, it has maintained an ambitious goal: create plant-based meat that looks and tastes like the real thing.
A long list of investors seem to believe in that mission, including Bill Gates, Leonardo DiCaprio, Twitter co-founders Biz Stone and Evan Williams, former McDonald’s CEO Don Thompson, and Tyson Foods.
Beyond Meat’s plant-based burger, the Beyond Burger, as well as its “chicken” products (made from soy and pea protein, yeast extract, and rice flour) are now available in over 500 grocery stores, 100 BurgerFi locations, and six TGI Fridays.
Now the Beyond Meat team is taking on sausage.
I tried all three flavours: hot Italian, sweet Italian, and brat. They looked exactly like raw beef, but they’re primarily made from pea protein, rice, fava beans, potato starch, and coconut oil. Like the Beyond Burger, the sausages also contain beet juice, which gives them a reddish colour.
Compared to traditional sausage, Beyond’s sausage has two more grams of protein, about half the fat, and 140 milligrams less sodium.
Even without oil, the plant-based sausages sizzled and browned like meat on the skillet. They smelled similar to meat sausage as well. After seven minutes, they were done. The three links generated a lot of liquid on the skillet, although it didn’t really look like normal pork juices.
I cut up a few pieces of the hot Italian one and took a bite. In a blind taste test, it wouldn’t fool me as sausage, but its texture was very close. The brat sausage’s texture was a little softer, which makes sense, since real brat is typically made from finely ground pork and bacon. My favourite was the last flavour, sweet Italian, even though I could tell immediately it was not made from real meat. All three were juicy.
According to Brown, the sausage is the closest the company has gotten to mimicking real meat. I’d have to agree. Last year,I tried the Beyond Burger, and it tasted less like beef than the Beyond Sausage tastes like sausage. The company’s research and development team has been working on the sausage line for the past year.
“When you look at where to innovate from a revenue perspective, you want to focus not only on the largest segments of the meat industry first, but also the ones where the consumer is active in reducing consumption of the particular animal protein,” Brown said. “We know that some consumers are pulling back from beef, and that processed meats including sausages are continuing to receive attention for health considerations.”
Beyond Meat aims to shake up the $US48 trillion global meat industry by creating palatable alternatives. Since the Beyond Burger and Sausage are close to the real thing, they may represent a step towards creating more environmentally friendly “meat.”
Global sales of plant-based meat have grown 6% since last year, according to a recent Nielsen report. And both Whole Foods’ and Pinterest’s2018 food trends reports predict that plant-based dishes will continue to become more mainstream.
That means it may become even more important for Beyond Meat to differentiate itself from competitors. One rival, Impossible Foods, has received rave reviews for its vegetarian Impossible Burger, including one from world-renowned chef and Momofuku founder David Chang. But Impossible Foods has not come out with a sausage – and for now, the Impossible Burger is only available in restaurants.
Brown “loves competition as long as we are winning.”
“I am less focused on the competition and more focused on getting closer to our True North: building meat from plants that is indistinguishable from its animal protein equivalent,” he said. “We aren’t there yet, but every year we get closer.”
Persuading a large percentage of Americans to change their meat-eating habits will be hard to pull off. But companies like Beyond Meat seem to be inching closer toward that objective.