Beyond Meat introduces new, meatier burger patty

New version hits store shelves this week

By Danielle Wiener-Bronner, CNN Business
Copyright 2019 CNN

Beyond Meat releasing "meatier" burger patty this week.

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. - Beyond Meat is upgrading its meatless burger patty.

The plant-based protein company said on Tuesday that the new version of its flagship product, which starts hitting grocery shelves this week, looks, tastes and cooks even more like beef.

The improved patty uses coconut oil and cocoa butter to create a marbling effect to make the patty's texture mimic real meat more closely. It also uses apple extract to help the the product brown like meat when it is cooked, and it uses a different mix of ingredients, including mung bean and rice protein, in addition to the original patty's protein from peas.

Beyond Meat is striving to create products that are indistinguishable from beef, pork and poultry for consumers who like meat but want to eat more healthfully and reduce their impacts on the planet.

The new burger "is a stop along that way," Beyond CEO Ethan Brown told CNN Business. "It's certainly not the end game." Beyond's competitor, Impossible Foods, came out with an improved version of its own burger patty in January.

For Beyond, the strategy means occasionally pulling products. The company recently discontinued its frozen plant-based chicken strips as it improves the recipe. "It's part of our philosophy and our approach to innovation that we're going to be constantly iterating," Brown said, adding that the company is always working to make the flavor, aroma, appearance and texture of its meat alternatives more realistic.

Brown may be looking for improvements, but consumers have been happy with Beyond's products so far. Beyond's first-quarter sales, which totaled $40.2 million, spiked 215% from the same period a year before, the company reported last week. Impossible, which doesn't release exact sales figures, says its sales have spiked 50% since the launch of its new patty.

Investors and mainstream restaurant chains have taken notice of the trend.

Beyond had a wildly successful initial public offering last month. Since then, its stock price has increased dramatically: It's currently trading at about seven times its IPO price of $25. Meanwhile major brands are adding or experimenting with menu items featuring Beyond and Impossible's products, including Burger King, Little Caesars, Tim Hortons and others.

And major food sellers Nestlé and Tyson are introducing their own plant-based alternatives to meat.

Beyond is hoping that its iterative approach will help it keep its edge over the new competitors, who have deeper pockets and operate at a larger scale.

"I am maniacally focused on driving this business forward through innovation," Brown said during a call with analysts discussing the company's first quarter earnings results. "I have no distraction with an incumbent business, no concerns about upsetting my existing supply chain."

The entrance of those big players "helps legitimize the space," Beyond's executive chair Seth Goldman told CNN Business, adding that in regard to competitors, "this is such a growing, expanding category, I believe there's going to be room."

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