Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Fake meats, finally, taste like chicken

‘Beyond Meat’ is a company that produces plant protein substitutes for chicken and beef. A recent production error, discussed in an article in the New York Times by Stephanie Strom (published on 2 April 2014), proved that the ‘fake meat’ has come extremely far from the flavourless veggie burgers that used to be the only option for non-carnivores. It tastes so real that meat consumers did not notice the mistaken label switch.

Beyond Meat’s products. Ann Johansson for The New York Times

Demand for meat alternatives has been growing over the past years, and trends show that vegetarianism is increasing. Celebrities such as Bill Gates see high potential in this movement and are investing in meat alternative producing companies. According to the founder of ‘Beyond Meats’, Ethan Brown, investors see the development as a sustainable issue, which explains why one big agricultural commodity business that trades in meats have stake in his company.

Randy Komisar, who is a partner at a venture capital that has backed Google and Facebook, states that they never said they are interested in foods, however, they are interested in a company that co-creates products with stakeholders that represent big potential markets and strong opportunities for building great returns. Taking the global supply chains and world’s growing population into account, he believes that this is a venture-scale problem with venture-sale returns.

Co-designing essential products, such as eggs and meats, to the taste of consumers satisfies a great demand and provides opportunities for a more sustainable environment. Younger consumers are demanding less fat, cholesterol and calories, which often translates into a desire to eat less meat, according to Andrew Loucks, President of the US frozen foods business at the Kellogg Company. The product design needs to fulfil an overall lifestyle, be it for health or ethical reasons. Interviewees and marketers refer the ‘fake meat’ to electrical car times. Many critics originally did not see potential in the product. However, today more than one million Prius cars are sold annually. These products were developed through co-creation involving customer, influence and referral markets.

The insight of this study is that through co-creation, products are designed that reshape an entire market by involving all stakeholder’s interests. ‘Beyond Meats’ is experiencing a category growth of 75 percent year over year by making a common vegetarian product more meat-like. Mr Brown wants to continue to create products that are just as good, just as convenient, and maybe even cheaper than ground beef or chicken. His overall aim is to offer something better than meat that satisfies consumers and the environment.

Lisa Katharina Grobien
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

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