Plant Proteins are So Hot Right Now (and the World's Biggest Meat Producer Agrees)

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Plant Proteins are So Hot Right Now (and the World's Biggest Meat Producer Agrees)

In a move that’s sure to turn the heads of both meat-eaters and vegetarians, Tyson Foods—the world’s largest producer of chicken, beef, and pork products—is now getting into another food category: plant proteins.

Tyson has invested in El Segundo, Calif., plant-based protein producer, Beyond Meat—taking a five percent stake in the company for an undisclosed amount.

Beyond Meat has become a leader in the plant protein category in recent years, most notably with the recent launch of its Beyond Burger, which is being sold alongside traditional burgers at the meat counter in select Whole Foods Market locations.

“The quality of the Beyond Burger is amazing,” Monica McGurk, a former Coca-Cola executive who joined Tyson in spring as senior vice president in charge of strategy and new ventures, told the New York Times. “We think it’s a game-changing product that gives us exposure to this fast-growing part of the food business.”

And fast-growing is no exaggeration. Google recently pointed to the plant-based protein category as the biggest trend in the tech industry, with unprecedented interest in creating meatless protein-rich foods that are not only sustainably and ethically produced, but also healthier than animal proteins, and delicious.

Ethan Brown, the founder and chief executive of Beyond Meat, said that while the relationship with Tyson Foods may cause some jaw-dropping for die-hard vegan and vegetarian supporters of the company, he's confident they’ll see the bigger picture as well.

“I’m hoping, though, that they and others will see this as part of a deliberate course of action to get out of the penalty box that’s the ‘alternative’ section in the supermarket and get into a mainstream discussion with the consumer,” Mr. Brown told the Times.

Plant-based alternatives in every category are booming, with total sales ringing in near $5 billion between June 2015 and June 2016.

“The investment for us is not about an either-or choice, it’s about the ‘and,’” McGurk said. “This is just another form for consumers to enjoy protein as part of their daily diet.”

The announcement comes just as the trailer for a new feature documentary “Meat the Future,” was released. The film follows the founder of Memphis Meats, a company focused on creating lab-grown meat products that eliminate the need for animal agriculture.

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