NEW YORK — Danny O'Malley's company Before the Butcher is just a year and a half old, but it's already making some significant waves in the plant-based meat space.
O'Malley, whose business cards identify him as the company's "presiplant" and founder, had an eventful last week — highlighted by the acquisition of his company by private investors Gregg and Jeff Hamann, who also own ground beef producer Jensen Meat Company. This was on the heels of another big announcement: Before the Butcher's Uncut brand of meatless burgers and sausages will launch in retail stores this summer.
Following these announcements, O'Malley spent much of the week talking to journalists and investors, appearing on Fox Business and the TD Ameritrade Network. On Friday, he was dishing up samples of Uncut burgers and sausage at the Plant Based World conference in the Javits Convention Center, basking in the interest in his company and trying to convert new fans.
"We're really excited about being in this space that's growing so fast," O'Malley told Food Dive on the conference show floor. "...We believe we are one of the next big players out there."
O'Malley isn't the only one who thinks so. As enthusiasm builds around the alternative meat space, investors and consumers are hungry for new products coming to market. And, as demonstrated by Before the Butcher's acquisition and Beyond Meat's red-hot IPO last month, so are investors.
The Before the Butcher acquisition came about because some of its initial angel investors sold their shares in the company to the Hamann brothers, O'Malley said. The purchase amount has not been disclosed. Before the Butcher already worked closely with the Hamanns' other company, Jensen Meat. O'Malley stressed that his company is now a sister company to the ground beef giant, sharing corporate ownership with Jensen, but is staying 100% plant-based. Prior to the acquisition, Jensen was already a Before the Butcher co-packer.
"It's been off the hook. It has been crazy. I got to tell you, we are in a position right now where we're scaling up as fast as we can because the demand is beyond what we can produce."
Founder and president, Before the Butcher
"Now they're going to help us grow exponentially, because we have an opportunity with a company that's already established to help us produce our products," O'Malley said. "And then we have a ... financial source, so we don't have to keep going back to the well and looking for more money."
Thanks to the acquisition, Before the Butcher is able to stretch out and grow quickly. The company now has access to a $25 million line of credit, according to a press release.
It is quickly scaling for its retail launch, which will be in 3,000 locations of the nation's top three grocery chains. It is also preparing for speedy foodservice growth. The company's products are in about 1,500 restaurants and more than 20 school districts' cafeterias. While these are already large numbers, O'Malley expects the number of outlets for all of these categories to double by the end of the year.
"It's been off the hook. It has been crazy," O'Malley said. "I got to tell you, we are in a position right now where we're scaling up as fast as we can because the demand is beyond what we can produce. So we're managing that the best that we can and we're growing very quickly."
In order to meet that need, Before the Butcher is getting its very own manufacturing facility. The company secured a lease on a 20,000-square-foot plant in San Diego, California, right next to Jensen's 90,000-square-foot facility. O'Malley said the build-out will begin in the next month.
Before the Butcher is the latest entrant currently on the plant-based burger market, with the company's founding in September 2017, but O'Malley is no stranger to the space. He worked for Beyond Meat for three years before leaving to start his own company. O'Malley said there are many reasons he decided to go off on his own, but the biggest one was the large gap between what consumers want and what manufacturers are delivering.
"I wanted to be a part of that growth, and I want to be able to produce some products that I thought were unique to the industry and special," O'Malley said. "We have a such a wide variety of products available compared to our competitors that I think we're offering things that they can't get elsewhere."
These products include the four coming to stores this summer — the Uncut Burger, the Uncut Savory Chicken Burger, the Uncut Roasted Turkey Burger and Uncut Breakfast Sausage. They also include items currently available to foodservice clients, which include meat-free ground sausage, chorizo, chicken chunks, beef tips, pulled pork, ground meat and sausage crumbles.
O'Malley said the company's R&D team is always working on new products, and some may be available by the end of the year. He said he doesn't expect his company's growth to slow down.
"For us to be in the same conversation with [plant-based meat company] Impossible [Foods] and Beyond Meat is important to us because we think we belong there," O'Malley said. "We're going to be a part of this growth and a part of what's happening — in a big way — in a very short period of time."