Tyson Foods, the biggest US meat producer, is launching its own non-meat nuggets and blended burgers in the biggest challenge yet to the start-ups that have driven a once niche dietary trend into the mainstream.
The push by Arkansas-based Tyson, whose offerings will be sold under the “Raised & Rooted” brand, comes as shares in Beyond Meat have soared fivefold since its initial public offering last month as investors clamour for exposure to the sector.
“We remain firmly committed to our growing traditional meat business and expect to be a market leader in alternative protein, which is experiencing double-digit growth and could someday be a billion-dollar business for our company,” said Noel White, chief executive of Tyson.
In addition to pea protein, the nuggets will be made with egg white, flaxseed and bamboo fibre.
Tyson, which was an early investor in Beyond Meat before selling its stake ahead of the IPO, is trying to muscle in on the trend for non-meat alternatives that has been fuelled by consumers’ concerns over the environment, animal welfare and the desire for healthier diets. Canada’s Maple Leaf Foods and Nestlé have already made a push into alternative proteins.
Analysts at Barclays believe that meat substitutes, including plant-based and lab-grown protein, could grab a 10 per cent share of the $1.4tn world meat market.
The excitement and hype over the sector has also been fanned by the initial success of Impossible Burger’s sales at Burger King outlets in St Louis, Missouri. The fast-food chain began offering them in April and sales have outpaced the group’s national average by 30 per cent, according to Earnest Research. It plans to roll out the plant-based burger across the rest of the US by the end of the year.
McDonald’s offers Nestle’s products in Germany, but Alexia Howard, an analyst at Bernstein, said investors were expecting a potential partnership between the fast-food giant and Beyond Meat.
“This has been on investors’ radars especially as Donald Thompson, former CEO of McDonald’s from 2012 to 2015, has been an investor in Beyond Meat through his VC firm, Cleveland Avenue, and he currently sits on Beyond Meat’s board,” she noted. Shares in Beyond Meat, which floated at $25 a share, surged to almost $190, before falling back to about $140 level.
Tyson’s nuggets will be available in US retailers in late summer and the blended burgers later this year. The company holds stakes in a number of alternative protein start-ups, including mushroom-based protein producer MycoTechnology and cell-based meat companies Memphis Meats and Future Meat Technologies.