Examining the Meatless-Burger Market

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In August of 2018, I wrote an article discussing a new vegetarian burger launch by A&W Canada. Not long after the launch, it became clear the Beyond Meat burger was on the path to acceptance with consumers. However, even then, most people didn’t realize the concept would create as much buzz as it has.

And here we are, one year later, still talking about the incredible success of the Beyond-Meat concept.

The Beyond Meat burger features a patty made from pulse crops — including peas and mung beans — providing the “real” taste of beef burgers. And to add a bit of realism, beet juice is added to mimic the “juices” from a real beef burger.

So, what has made Beyond Meat — and by extension, plant-based proteins — such a huge success? Simply put, consumers are increasingly looking for health-and-wellness foods that taste great. And plant-based proteins have not only struck a chord with consumers, the craze has also provided great opportunities in the foodservice industry. Restaurant operators are increasingly looking for ways to innovate and expand their menu offerings and the plant-based-protein movement has provided that chance.

The launch of Beyond Meat burgers in the restaurant segment catered directly to consumers hungry for vegetarian options. “Early adopters” such as A&W were quick to take advantage of the offering and, within weeks, the chain announced it was temporarily out of stock of the Beyond Meat burger. Since then, Beyond Meat has expanded its Canadian presence through partnerships with Sobeys Inc., The Works, Lone Star Texas Grill and Tim Hortons.

Beyond Meat tapped into what was a slow-growing movement toward plant-based eating and became a leader almost overnight. Its introduction into the Canadian consumer market with partners such as A&W allowed the company to focus on true burger consumers. In Canada, burgers comprise a $20-billion piece of the quick-service industry.

But the real success for Beyond Meat has been attracting the traditional burger consumer and when that burger consumer sampled Beyond Meat, they were surprised to find they actually liked it.

Now the demand is increasing. Recent research by The NPD Group shows when consumers were asked which flavours or characteristics they would like to see offered more often in restaurant meals, 11 per cent of respondents said they would like to see vegetarian options offered.

It’s clear we haven’t seen the end of the plant-based-meat craze. Even though the
category only represents a small portion of total burger and chicken-sandwich servings in commercial foodservice, it’s the true meat eaters and consumers increasingly looking for healthy alternatives at foodservice who will continue to steadily drive growth. With plant-based burgers representing less than three per cent of the quick-service burger category, the growth opportunity to capture more share is real.

Needless to say, plant-based protein is more than just a trend — it’s a fundamental shift in consumer eating patterns.

Written by Robert Carter

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