- Applegate launched two types of organic burgers blended with meat and mushrooms last week at Natural Products Expo West. The Great Organic Blend Burger offers both a turkey and a 100% grass-fed beef variety.
- The Hormel brand said the new products contain only humanely raised organic meat or poultry, organic mushrooms and rosemary extract. The new line is "catering to the growing population of flexitarians," the company said.
- "By blending meat with mushrooms, not only were we able to create a burger that is juicy and flavor-packed, but also more nutritious, with fewer calories and less fat, than a regular beef burger," John Ghingo, president of Applegate, said in a release. "It's a game-changing innovation, and it's one of many ways we're continuing to meet consumers' needs through unique and irresistible products."
As the first major food producer marketing a hybrid burger featuring both meat and plants, Applegate is likely to attract all sorts of consumers with the new Great Organic Blend Burger. It appeals to those looking for clean labels without other additives, flavors or colorings, as well as those who aren't ready to quit eating meat.
This product introduction signals a gradual move from the brand toward the popular plant-based sector and gives Applegate time to assess how popular the shift might be with consumers before potentially producing completely meatless innovations.
The Great Organic Blend Burger is the first Applegate product incorporating plants and will be available nationwide at Kroger, Hy-Vee, Sprouts and H-E-B.
The number of consumers looking to reduce their meat consumption is growing, with 60% of those ages 25 to 70 saying they're cutting back for cost or health reasons, according to HealthFocus International figures. Applegate's John Ghingo called these people "conscious carnivores" who aren't going to stop eating meat but are looking for additional protein options in their diet.
"(Consumers) still love meat, they love the meat experience, but they're thinking about where's the meat coming from and how much meat am I having. So for those consumers ... this is a solution that really kind of fits where they're trying to go to," Ghingo told Food Dive at Expo West.
As a result, meat and poultry products touting their grass-fed, hormone- and/or antibiotic-free status are also growing. The Food Marketing Institute and North American Meat Institute's recent "Power of Meat" report said such claims increased sales by 4.8% this past year, adding that more than half of shoppers want more of these items in stores. The report said 54% of consumers would like more grass-fed items, 52% want more all-natural ones, and 52% would like more products free from antibiotics and hormones.
This product isn't unique to Applegate. Teton Waters Ranch also recently launched a grass-fed beef burger with mushrooms, Entrepreneur noted. The Denver-based company said it is designed for the "eco-conscious consumer who really cares about where their food comes from and how the animal is treated."
With the scale, distribution and expertise Hormel can provide, Applegate is in a good position to appeal to both carnivores and flexitarians who want premium products offering transparency and a cleaner label. The Great Organic Blend Burger could also help burnish Applegate's reputation as a quality organic and natural brand.
If this new product is successful, the market could see Hormel and Applegate bringing out — or even acquiring — additional hybrid products to bridge the gap between meat and plant-based. The trend might prompt other meat producers to follow suit, and might also make it harder for ranchers and meat producers to try and restrict use of the term "meat" on plant-based alternatives if they actually contain some.
Lillianna Byington contributed to this report.