Ethan Brown is the founder and CEO of Beyond Meat, whose Beyond Burger has become the first plant-based meat to be sold in the meat aisles of major grocery chains, including Whole Foods, Kroger, and Albertsons Cos.
To whom do you seek to appeal with the Beyond Burger?
The mainstream consumer. Our vision is to perfectly build meat directly from plants, and by doing so provide consumers with a product that is identical in taste, texture, and nutrition to its animal protein equivalent. Meat holds a very important place in our culture and diet, and it’s important that we present our plant-based meat within a context that is familiar to consumers. It’s why we fought so hard to be in the meat aisle, which is where we can now be found in more than 5,000 grocery stores.
Beyond Burger is now sharing shelf space with traditional burgers in mainstream supermarkets like Kroger. Did you ever envision that your company could have an impact even on the diets of carnivores?
It’s such an opportunity, and I feel very fortunate to be part of what may be a watershed moment for protein. Every year, the consumer appears to be more open, and with this openness comes our obligation: we need to be there for them with products that are as seamless as possible as they trade off animal meats for plant-based meats. I’ve shared that I don’t think we are entirely there yet; however, we also don’t see any obstacle to reaching that perfect build of meat from plants.
Beyond Burger doesn’t just make burgers. Are your other products gaining such prominent placement in meat cases and on restaurant menus as the Beyond Burger?
It’s part of our culture to try to continually raise the bar with each product introduction. Beyond Sausage and the Beyond Burger represent the latest iteration in the platforms we use to build meat from plants. However, we also continue to strongly support, and receive very positive feedback on, our earlier innovations of Chicken Strips and Beefy Crumbles. Both products work well in dishes ranging from tacos, pasta, pizza, soups and chili, and salads among others. Through our partnership with Sysco, we are seeing our entire portfolio of products added to more and more menus.
What’s next for the Beyond Burger?
We were excited to start 2018 by joining the menu at 469 TGI Fridays locations nationwide and more generally come into the year on menus at 5,000 restaurants, hotels, hospitals, and college campus cafeterias nationwide. We expect significant expansion of this distribution in 2018.