Beyond Meat, reaching for the “holy grail” of plant-based protein and confronting a persistent complaint about the category, has reformulated its flagship burgers to improve their taste and nutritional stats.
The new versions of the Beyond burgers, which will replace the existing recipe, are set to launch early next year in groceries and restaurants. The upgrade promises less fat, fewer calories, and added vitamins and minerals.
The company says the move is another step toward the ultimate goal of creating burgers that have healthier bona fides than typical beef patties and taste just as good.
As a way to introduce the products and whip up excitement (and press), there’s a three-day sampling event for fans later this week at the startup’s Los Angeles headquarters.
The move comes at the tail end of an explosive year for plant-based food, especially faux meat, as flexitarian consumers drove record growth and, according to a study from Archer Daniels Midland, plan to continue buying the products in the future, even while grumbling about the makeup of the processed products.
One of Beyond’s fiercest rivals, Impossible Foods, already went through a high-profile remodel of its flagship burger, announcing the Impossible Burger 2.0 at the Consumer Electronics Show 2019.
Execs at Beyond, who also revamped their burgers in 2019, said in a statement they’re “continuously working on understanding beef flavor at a deeper level.” The ongoing quest meant that the brand “developed an understanding of flavor and aroma tonalities that were missing in the previous versions of the Beyond Burger, as well as tonalities that were present in the Beyond Burger that we wanted to reduce to make it more like 80/20 ground beef,” a spokesperson told Adweek. (80/20 is the lean to fat ratio of typical hamburger).
The new Beyond burgers will be the company’s “juiciest” and have “an enhanced meaty flavor, lower total fat and fewer calories plus B vitamins and minerals” comparable to the micronutrients found in real beef, the company said.
For a data breakdown, the Beyond 35 will have 35% less total fat and 35% less saturated fat (5 grams) than a typical burger. The Beyond 55, meantime, will have 35% less total fat but 55% less saturated fat than beef, making it the brand’s version of a low-fat product at 3 grams.
Food analysts called the news a logical next step in the battle with animal protein, though Good Food Institute’s Zak Weston pointed out that plant-based meat on the market had already been lower in saturated fat than real beef, “so this just makes the nutritional advantage even more stark than before.”
Beyond founder Ethan Brown has often talked publicly about tinkering with the product components to best mimic real meat.
“What’s the perfect burger? I think in this case it’s really around continuing to collapse the gaps in sensory experience between our burgers and 80/20 ground beef,” he said recently to Yahoo Finance. “So then it’s just truly indistinguishable. That is the holy grail.”
Consumers are reporting that they want to eat less red meat, often swapping it out for plant-based products, citing health and environmental concerns. But they’re sticklers for taste, rating that as their top motivator in choosing which fake meat to buy.
Weston, GFI’s foodservice and supply chain manager, said he expects that marketing will continue to focus on taste and that companies in the space will address another consumer pain point: price. “That remains one of the top few barriers to consumer trial and adoption,” he said, noting that prices may come down in 2021.