- Beyond Meat will sell its plant-based burgers at more than 280 Safeway supermarkets in California, Hawaii and Nevada, according to Bloomberg.
- The company, which boasts Bill Gates, General Mills and Tyson Foods among its investors, has offered the Beyond Burger at Whole Foods locations and a few restaurants for a little more than a year.
- Ethan Brown, the chief executive officer of Beyond Meat, said the product has sold well at Whole Foods but getting into a conventional grocery chain marks a turning point for the company. “It’s a really important step in terms of reframing how we think about meat,” the 45-year-old told Bloomberg.
The next generation of vegan burgers, led by Beyond Meat’s Beyond Burger, has taken another step toward the mainstream with its foray into major retailer, Safeway.
Unlike Whole Foods, which is known for its healthy and vegan-friendly choices, the appearance of the Beyond Burger inside the meat aisle of Safeway is proof that more people are starting to see it as a strong alternative to meat and retailers believe there’s money to be made in the category. It's also further evidence that Beyond Meat, Impossible Foods and other makers of plant-based burgers are close to replicating the taste, texture and smell of meat if the product is primed to go head-to-head with traditional meat.
One area where they fall short, for now, is in price — a challenge plant-based companies are confident will become less of an issue as more production comes online. Beyond Meat sells its burger in the meat section at Whole Foods with two quarter-pound burgers averaging $5.99, significantly more than high-end premium burgers like grass-fed organic beef. It's uncertain how much the product will sell for at Safeway, but a higher price could deter more shoppers from trying the product or returning to buy it after an initial purchase.
Roughly 7.3 billion pounds of ground beef was acquired by food service operators and sold by stores with revenue of more than $2 million in 2016, according to industry data. Manufacturers of plant-based meat products are hopeful if they can capture even a small fraction of those totals, they will be a major player in the food space. To be successful, they will need to convince meat lovers to ditch their animal-based beef in favor of a new alternative.
According to a report by Mintel, 31% of Americans are now practicing “meat free” days, boosting popularity of alternative protein sources, such as these alt-meat products. The report revealed that many consumers who purchase alternative proteins do so because they are watching their cholesterol (30%) or want to reduce their intake of saturated fats (29%).
Before the Safeway announcement, Will Schafer, Beyond Meat's vice president of marketing, told Food Dive that discussions are ongoing with other "household-name retailers" to carry the product. With early success at Whole Foods and now an appearance in nearly 300 Safeway locations, it wouldn't be a surprise to see more retailers carrying the plant-based burger.