Southern California’s Beyond Meat is experiencing and expecting tremendously good things for the future of food. The company, best known for the Beyond Burger -- a meaty plant-based burger that looks, cooks, and tastes just like meat-- has become the unofficial face of the vegan diet in the last year with new restaurant launches creating media frenzies like celebrity events rather than just new menu items. The burger’s recent launch into fast-casual chain TGI Fridays was the restaurant's biggest product launch in history. When Beyond Meat launched its meaty-like Beyond Sausage at the Boulder Whole Foods last month, the restaurant couldn’t keep pace.
And in a recent interview, Beyond Meat founder and CEO Ethan Brown told Entrepreneur he thinks it’s only a matter of time before the vegan patty is being served in the nation’s largest fast-food chains. Not just as a gratuitous vegan option, but as a staple on the menu -- similar to how coffee shops now offer dairy, almond, soy, or coconut milk.
“I'm very confident that's going to happen, because I think the consumer is turning so quickly,” Brown told Entrepreneur. “Once we break the code and get to the point where it's indistinguishable from animal protein, I think you will see that shift.”
Beyond Meat is closer to that reality than ever. Last fall the company signed a deal with Sysco, the largest food distributor in the U.S., which is bringing the burger to more mainstream outlets.
“If we were today to create a burger that is an absolute perfect build of meat, made it all from plants, there would still be cultural and societal headwind around completely switching from an animal protein to a plant-based protein, because we've evolved consuming animal protein,” Brown said. “When people are disrupting technology spaces it's very different when you're talking about disrupting food, because food is so intimate.”
But with the rising demand for plant-based products and vegan options already popping up -- McDonald’s added a vegan burger to the menu in Finland and Sweden; Domino’s has added vegan Follow Your Heart cheese to its Australian menu--it’s likely that the Beyond Burger will be debuting in major fast food chains soon. And beyond.
"We have to figure out a way to continue to consume meat but do it in a way that doesn't involve the animal," Brown said, "because the animal is so detrimental to both the environment and has issues around human health that are important to recognize. That requires innovation, but it requires a tempered innovation and one that is cognizant of the fact that consumers aren't going to be comfortable with something they don't understand."
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