Beyond Meat is a plant-based meat substitute processor based in the United States. As of this writing, it has a market capitalization of 1.56Bn, which is less than that of some of its major competitors, including Impossible Foods and Cargill.
Nonetheless, I wouldn’t underestimate this promising brand because it has achieved so much, despite being around for slightly over a decade. For instance, in 2018, it bagged the United Nations’ Champions of the Earth Award (science and innovation category) alongside Impossible Foods.
Besides, it has earned the backing of distinguished celebrities and investors, including Twitter co-founder Evan Williams, Leonardo DiCaprio, former McDonald’s president Don Thompson, and Kleiner Perkins.
So, in this business article, I’ll discuss all about the Beyond Meat business history, including its background, offerings, achievements, and partnerships. If you’re also aching to learn what it has done for society at large, I cover that too!
The Foundation of Beyond Meat
Driven by a burning desire to combat climate change and promote animal welfare and human health, Ethan Brown founded Beyond Meat in 2009.
When starting out, Brown was funded by big-name entrepreneurs such as Biz Stone, who co-founded Twitter alongside Jack Dorsey, Kleiner Perkins, and Bill Gates. All these investors were blown away by this environmentalist’s far-reaching business plan, which showed a lot of promise.
Brown didn’t just long to change the world by delivering healthier plates; he wanted to make it as an entrepreneur.
During his early years, he was always taken with Warren Buffett’s investment strategy, which is how he landed at Columbia Business School, the alma mater of the current Berkshire Hathaway CEO and chairman.
But after almost a decade, Brown figured he could bring even more positive transformation by partnering with McDonald’s one day. Did he ever see this dream to fruition? Below, I’ve provided the answer to this question and more about how Beyond Meat became a top player in the plant-based food industry.
Beyond Meat Growth Story
Although Ethan Brown established Beyond Meat in 2009, the brand joined the retail market in 2012. Check out some of its top products and when it began providing them.
Beyond Meat Products
1. Chicken Strips
Beyond Meat launched its first offering, Chicken Strips, in 2012. At the time, it was known as “Chicken-Free Strips” Ethan Brown’s goal was to avail the perfect replacement for chicken and sell it frozen. And he didn’t just wake up one day and develop this product’s recipe.
University of Missouri professors Fu-Hung Hsieh and Harold Huff spent about two decades developing the chicken. To make it, a broad range of ingredients was required, including gluten-free flour, soy powder, and carrot fiber. Brown was so fascinated by the professionals’ work that he licensed the formula from the pair.
Unfortunately, when Chicken Strips landed on the market, diners received it with mixed feelings. Some commended its taste, but others said it wasn’t a great emulation of real chicken, describing it as “tolerable, at best.”
Nevertheless, Beyond Meat continued to offer Chicken Strips until 2019, when it ceased. The company disclosed the discontinuation was fueled by the realization that it wasn’t offering the desired plant-based meat experience, and many of its other products could do better. CNBC called it a “failure.”
2. Beyond Beef Crumbles
Beyond Meat started offering Beyond Beef Crumbles in 2014, and it was the brand’s first plant-based beef product.
Today, the company also avails plant-based pork for its customers.
3. Beyond Burger
In 2014, Beyond Meat announced that a product emulating a beef burger was in the works and would be released in 2015. In February, it delivered its promise.
Notably, Beyond Burger is certified and doesn’t come with genetically modified ingredients. Instead, it utilizes rice protein, coconut oil, canola oil, mung bean protein, apple extract, pomegranate powder, pea protein isolates, and sunflower lecithin.
A Beyond Burger and a beef patty of equal weight feature the same fat and protein content. However, the nutrients are not similar and vary depending on the eatery serving it.
4. Beyond Sausage
In 2017, Beyond Meat had some good news for vegan pork sausage enthusiasts – it was releasing Beyond Sausage, an excellent alternative for them. It offered three varieties: Hot Italian, Bratwurst, and Sweet Italian.
5. Beyond Meatballs
Beyond Meat started rolling out these traditional meatballs’ plant-based alternatives in 2019. They come pre-seasoned and ready for preparation. In September 2020, the brand announced they’d be available at select stores across the US, including Whole Foods, Stop & Shop, Kroger, Sprouts, Harris Teeter and Albertsons.
6. Beyond Meat Jerky
Beyond Meat began making this plant-based jerky in early 2022. It’s the organization’s first shelf-stable product, and its flavor has already captivated many.
Beyond Meat collaborated with PepsiCo for the first time to deliver this product. As of this writing, it’s available in many places, such as pharmacies, gas stations, and grocery stores. And it comes in three pack sizes to suit everyone’s needs.
I must let you know that Beyond Meat Jerky is much like traditional meat-based jerky. The only difference is its ingredients, which provide up to 10 grams of protein, free of soy, GMO, gluten, and cholesterol.
In early 2021, Taco Bell signed a partnership deal with Beyond Meat to create its first plant-based meat alternative for its US audience. The two companies would first test the product, and if it was good enough, they would offer it as a permanent option.
Doubtlessly, this collaboration was beneficial to both brands. Most Taco Bell enthusiasts were super excited, and Beyond Meat shares increased 7%.
However, things didn’t go as planned.
Taco Bell reported that Beyond Meat’s carne asada wasn’t satisfactory, and it could not serve it.
Fortunately, the partnership wasn’t canceled, and they’re still working to develop a plant-based meat option that lives up to Taco Bell’s standards. The fast-food restaurant company said it hoped to start offering the product by the end of 2022.
As I mentioned, Ethan Brown always wanted to work with McDonald’s. His dream became a reality in February 2021 when he signed a three-year partnership deal with the well-liked brand to add new, exciting food options to its menu.
In 2022, McDonald’s finished testing the McPlant burger in the US after successfully developing it in collaboration with Beyond Meat.
As of this writing, the demand for this healthy food option is uninspiring, as analysts have reported. I think these unexpected and disappointing results could explain why the two companies have not expressed interest in a nationwide product launch. But it’s still new on the market, and its sales might pick up soon.
Beyond Meat partnered with Yum Brands around the same time it joined hands with McDonald’s. Like the latter, its multi-year deal with this company is all about availing menu items made from plant-based protein. The offerings will only be available at select restaurants, including Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, and KFC.
I found out this isn’t the first time Yum Brands has shown a preference for Beyond Meat. Back in 2019, the fast-food company offered Beyond Fried Chicken at KFC. And impressively, it sold out at an Atlanta restaurant in a few hours.
Beyond Meat and PepsiCo announced Planet Partnership, their joint venture, in January 2021. The objective of this alliance was to make innovative drinks and snacks using plant-based protein.
Planet Partnership’s first product was the Beyond Meat jerky, launched in 2022.
The deal has enabled Beyond Meat to enjoy Pepsi’s vast marketing expertise for new offerings.
For Pepsi, it’s much easier to promote healthy eating and sustainability.
Within the past decade, Beyond Meat has established several manufacturing facilities in different parts of the world, such as Pennsylvania, Columbia, Missouri, and the Netherlands. Some of them facilitate the distribution of their products in the United States, Africa, the Middle East, and Europe.
The brand has also expanded to China, which is home to one of its production plants (situated in Jiaxing). It only began full-scale manufacturing last year and has already proved incredibly beneficial to the brand.
It’s noteworthy that Beyond Meat’s Jiaxing-based manufacturing facility is the company’s first end-to-end plant outside the US.
Beyond Meat and Kim Kardashian
In early 2022, Beyond Meat featured American socialite and entrepreneur Kim Kardashian in an ad. In it, she describes herself as the company’s “chief taste consultant” and encourages people to try its products.
If you ask me, this was a brilliant PR move, as Kim Kardashian’s fan base is massive, and her family is known to influence culture and the community greatly.
But I’m of the opinion that they could have done better, as the ad boasts some noticeable blunders. For instance, at some point, Kim is holding a burger without a bite mark. And yet, she seems to be savoring a mouthful of it, insinuating that she is fake eating.
Beyond Meat Videos
Check out this clip to grasp how and why Beyond Meat was born. Watching it will also throw light on the life of Ethan Brown, who launched this brand to boost sustainability and ensure everyone has access to quality, healthy food options.
I was inspired to discover that Brown was passionate about animal welfare even as a young boy. And though he didn’t know that he’d one day own one of the largest producers of plant-based meat alternatives, he understood that bringing about positive change began with the little things, such as changing his diet.
In the video, Brown also touches on the complications he faced when starting the company. For example, he has huge credit card debt and had to pour all his savings into this entrepreneurial venture.
Here’s another video to watch to get why modern society needs Beyond Meat. It begins by explaining the downsides of consuming meat, and slaughtering animals for food. Then, it dives into what inspired Ethan Brown to invest in Beyond Meat, and the ingredients he uses to make his meatless products.
Apart from enlightening you about Beyond Meat’s origin, I also selected this clip for you because it explains the brand’s business model, marketing strategies, and the aspects that set it apart from the crowd.
Where Is Beyond Meat Today?
As of this writing, Beyond Meat’s head offices are in El Segundo, California. Its founder, Ethan Brown, serves as its CEO, a position he’s held since he established e company.
Beyond Meat, products are available worldwide, thanks to 110k+ food service outlets and retail stores (including Walmart) in up to 80 locations.
And apart from selling plant-based alternatives for beef, pork, and poultry, it also sells merchandise to promote its brand, including t-shirts, hoodies, and caps.
Beyond Meat Philanthropy
Beyond Meat is known for its philanthropic acts. I discovered that it had been involved in various initiatives to help transform the lives of many, including:
Feed A Million+
In 2020, Beyond Meat launched the “Feed A Million+” charitable campaign to donate over a million plant-based burgers to healthcare workers to help fight the Covid-19 virus. The company also pledged to avail job opportunities to restaurant workers whose workplaces had been closed due to the pandemic.
I should mention that Beyond Meat partnered with professional basketball player Kyrie Irving and American comedian Kevin Hart. Their announcement coincided with Jeff Bezos’ statement that he’d donate $100M to Feeding America, making it the largest sum Amazon has ever contributed to charity.
In my opinion, Beyond Meat’s Feed A Million+ initiative was a pretty selfless act as, at the time, the brand’s stock prices had fallen 26%. And it was already recording losses due to a drop in sales, thanks to the global pandemic.
Beyond Meat Controversies
Like many large organizations, Beyond Meat has made the headlines for various reasons. But I’m afraid not all of them have been good. Here’s one of the company’s major controversies that have drawn the attention of many in the US and beyond.
Beyond Meat and Don Lee Farms
If you’re up to date with what’s happening in the plant-based meat industry, you might be aware that Don Lee Farms and Beyond Meat are not exactly friends. These two companies’ bad blood has led to several lawsuits, and it all began in May 2017, only three years after they signed a five-year co-manufacturing contract.
So, Don Lee Farms accused Beyond Meat of terminating the agreement wrongfully, citing health and safety concerns, and stealing its trade secrets for making its signature Beyond Burger. Responding to the allegations, Beyond Meat claimed it had every right to end the contract because Don Lee failed to address important food safety regulations.
In 2019, Don Lee Farms further alleged that Beyond Meat was fraudulent and negligent. And added that it sent intentionally altered information to the Inglewood-based food producer to make it look like it (Don Lee) was in the wrong.
In August 2021, Judge Holly J. Fujie ruled against family-owned Don Lee on the allegations of stealing trade secrets.
But that wasn’t the end of it.
Later, in mid-2022, Don Lee Farms sued Beyond Meat again, accusing it of unfair competition resulting from false advertising. The lawsuit is now slated for trial in September 2022.
FAQs – Beyond Meat Business History
Question: Why is Beyond Meat so famous today?
Answer: Based on my research, Beyond Meat has garnered massive popularity because of its top-tier products, including burgers, which have gained a reputation for their great taste, smell, texture, and consistency.
Question: Are Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods similar?
Answer: Although Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods sell plant-based substitutes for meat, they’re not the same. Their burgers lack a similar taste and are also priced differently.
Question: How successful is Beyond Meat?
Answer: I would say that Beyond Meat is thriving because it’s among the biggest players in the US plant-based meat industry. However, the company’s financials have recently been a mess, and it’s not as competitive as it was years ago.
Question: What does Beyond Meat use to make its products?
Answer: Beyond Meat utilizes a plethora of plant-based, non-GMO ingredients from sources such as peas, potatoes, brown rice, and beans.
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