Plant-based meat is doing big business during the pandemic — and it’s about to get even bigger.
Beyond Meat has launched a new e-commerce site that allows you to order its meatless products, including the popular Beyond Burger, right to your door. Starting Thursday, you no longer have to get your faux-meat from a grocery store or restaurant. You can order it online directly from the company and let it come to you.
Beyond Meat’s main competitor, Impossible Foods, debuted its own direct-to-consumer e-commerce site in June.
The products available for purchase on the new Beyond Meat site include meatless burger patties, meatless ground beef, and meatless breakfast sausages. Two-day shipping is included in all orders.
If you’re worried about the environmental effects of having products shipped to your door, that’s a good instinct, but Beyond Meat has done what it can to mitigate the impact. Your order will come in a recyclable insulated shipping box via UPS’s carbon-neutral shipping — a program that supports wastewater treatment and landfill gas capture projects to offset projected emissions from your shipment. (However, you should know that offset programs are far from foolproof.)
Impossible Foods doesn’t make promises about carbon-neutral shipping, but it does say it’s chosen packaging with minimal impact on the environment. It also notes that the environmental benefits of eating an Impossible Burger instead of beef from cows vastly outweigh any impact made by packaging. But if you prefer to skip the shipping, note that the company has expanded its retail footprint 60-fold since the start of the pandemic: The Impossible Burger is now available in more than 8,000 grocery stores across all 50 US states, including at least 1,700 Kroger-owned stores. You can order online through Kroger.com, which will sync up with an Instacart delivery slot to get the products to your home.
The launch of a direct-to-consumer site is a smart move for Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods at a time when many people feel safer getting food delivered to them rather than going into a store.
Retail sales of plant-based food have skyrocketed during the coronavirus pandemic, in part because some meats became hard to find at grocery stores after the closure of meat plants that had become Covid-19 hot spots.
In late April, Bloomberg reported that rumors of a looming meat shortage were helping lift shares of Beyond Meat. The stock rose 41 percent in one week, its largest weekly jump since the company went public in 2019. Although the stock isn’t rising so dramatically now, the company this month reported healthy second-quarter earnings, saying it reached record net revenues of $113.3 million, up 69 percent year-over-year.
A growing awareness of the problems with our animal agriculture system may also be heightening the appetite for plant-based meat. We know the giant factory farms that supply 99 percent of America’s meat are a serious pandemic risk, and they’re already ratcheting up human health crises like antibiotic resistance. These industrial farms are also harming the climate, not to mention animal welfare.
For all these reasons, it’s exciting that the rise of meatless meat has been meteorically fast, going in a few years from the niche purview of vegans and vegetarians to mainstream acceptance and even devoted fandom. Three years ago, few people were talking about Beyond Meat or Impossible Foods. Now many foodies see their products as not merely tolerable but actually trendy.
There are still obstacles to the widespread acceptance of the new generation of meatless meat. For one, there’s a price barrier, with plant-based alternatives from Beyond and Impossible still costing a bit more than equivalent animal meat products. And there’s been a minor backlash to the products, with some critics saying they’re too processed and unhealthy.
But it’s worth noting that the findings from the first clinical trial using Beyond Meat’s plant-based products were published this month in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The study found that when participants switched from eating animal meat to plant-based meat for two months, their levels of LDL cholesterol (a.k.a. “bad cholesterol”) dropped, and they lost two pounds on average.
It’s never been easier to get your hands on fake meat that actually tastes a lot like the real thing. And you don’t have to be a full-fledged vegan or vegetarian to give it a try. In fact, 93 percent of consumers who bought Beyond Meat at the store last year also bought some type of meat product, showing that plant-based meat is achieving mainstream appeal.
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