SMITHFIELD, Va.—Big meat companies have begun to roll out plant-based alternatives to chicken nuggets, burgers and meatballs, the New York Times reports. After startups Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat burst on the scene several years ago with vegetarian options that look and taste like their real-meat counterparts, major food makers like Hormel, Nestlé, Perdue, Smithfield and Tyson and have jumped on the meatless bandwagon.
Popularity of plant-based options has soared in recent months, bringing more meat-free sausages, burgers and chicken to supermarket shelves and restaurant menus. “There is a growing demand out there,” said John Pauley, the chief commercial officer for Smithfield. “We’d be foolish not to pay attention.”
For example, Nestlé has an Awesome Burger, Hormel has plant-based ground meat, and Smithfield has a product line featuring soy-based sausages, meatballs and burgers. In addition, Tyson has a blended meat-plant burger, and Perdue has a chicken-vegetable nugget product.
“When companies like Tyson and Smithfield launch plant-based meat products, that transforms the plant-based meat sector from niche to mainstream,” said Bruce Friedrich with the Good Food Institute. “They have massive distribution channels, they have enthusiastic consumer bases, and they know what meat needs to do to satisfy consumers.”
But lest consumers think their favorite meat companies are going to stop producing meat products, Smithfield’s Pauley said, “We’re a meat company, first and foremost. We’re not going to apologize for that.” While Susan Wassel, a Tyson spokeswoman, said, “Right now, it’s really about the business opportunity.”