Have you ever tried meatless meat? If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you probably never heard of Beyond Meat and its competitor Impossible Foods. These two firms are revolutionising the food industry by changing consumers’ perspectives on meat consumption. How? By producing plant-based burger patties. The innovative burger’s recipe does not contain meat even though the appearance and the taste are the same as “real beef”. This disruptive innovation is a game-changer: it represents a sustainable substitute for meat while keeping all meat’s defining characteristics.
The alternative protein industry has grown exponentially during the last years due to a change in consumers’ tastes and a higher environmental consciousness. Sure enough, people are more and more concerned about climate change and are willing to take action. Livestock (with red meat being the most resource-intensive) contributes to 15% of global greenhouse emissions and it is responsible for using one-third of global cropland, increasing the threat of deforestation and biodiversity loss. Therefore, consumers’ preferences are changing taking into account the effect that their purchase decisions might have on the environment, and more people are willing to try plant-based products. Furthermore, the “veganism” is no more a taboo. The vegan community in the US has increased by 600% between 2014 and 2017, increasing the demand for plant-based products.
However, is meatless meat a healthy choice? Both Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods nutrition profiles are very similar. They are both rich in protein (almost the same amount as real beef) with the major difference in the composition of the patties. Beyond Meat burgers’ main source of proteins are peas, mung beans, and brown rice while Impossible Foods “beef” is mainly made of soy and potatoes. The advantages of having no animal-derived products are clear, there is a lower risk of diabetes and zero cholesterol intake. But be careful! Animal proteins are considered more complete with respect to plant proteins, which are missing key amino acids needed by our bodies. Moreover, not always what’s “green” is 100% healthy. Both burgers are packed added sugar, salt, and other processed ingredients like protein isolates, which give lower amounts of vitamins, minerals and other plant compounds than unprocessed plant-based burger ingredients like whole beans, lentils, or peas. For this reason, it is important to consume them in moderation and in a varied diet.
The success of Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat is indisputable. The former is privately held and valued about $2 billion and the latter, after its successful IPO (ended the first trading day 160% above the IPO price of 25$) has now a market cap of about $5 billion. The growth of this market is also signaled by the inclusion in Burger King’s menu of the “Impossible Whopper”, a burger made with Impossible Foods plant-based patties. In the US, the number of restaurants that offer a plant-based meat alternative is increasing, while in Italy the market is relatively new and has great potential. As a result, it is estimated that the market of plant-based or lab-made meat could climb to $140 billion in the next 10 years, capturing 10% of the market share of the $1.4 trillion meat market, Barclays said. The strength of this innovation is that it does not appeal just to a niche, but it also raises the interest of habitual meat-eaters. Therefore, it has the potential to reshape the food industry. So, what are you waiting for? Are you ready to taste the future?
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