- Plant-based protein maker Beyond Meat is planning to enter the U.K food market early next year, according to just-food. Executive Chairman Seth Goldman told just-food the company has been talking to potential customers in both retail and foodservice channels, but places greater emphasis on retail.
- Beyond Meat's overseas presence is currently limited to Hong Kong. The company also distributes its products to thousands of retail outlets across the U.S. — including Walmart, Kroger, Safeway, Albertsons and Target — and recently partnered with Chef'd to offer several plant-based offerings via the meal kit's online marketplace.
- "In the case of the U.K., we have strategically decided this is a priority market," Goldman said at a conference. "We want to find significant partners to go to sale quickly."
Beyond Meat's impending move across the ocean signals the global reach of the plant-based alternative trend, a movement that continues to flourish in the U.S. It will be interesting to see how this new pool of consumers will react to the company's vegan products. If the expansion yields strong sales, it could open more doors for company growth. Still, Goldman said that Beyond Meat doesn't plan to expand farther into Europe in the near future.
"We want to go faster but we don't want to get too fast. ... So rather than encounter five different challenges, let's go to the U.K., let's get it up and running," Goldman told just-food. "As soon as we we've got this, it's working, it'll be easier to go elsewhere."
The plant-based protein maker's ambitions are well-timed. According to HealthFocus data, 17% of U.S. consumers aged 15 to 70 currently claim to eat a predominately plant-based diet, while 60% report to be cutting back on meat-based products. Of those who are reducing their intake of animal-based proteins, 55% say the change is permanent, and 22% hope that it is.
A report published in 2015 by NPD Group, Midan Marketing and Meatingplace also found that 70% of consumers who eat meat are substituting a non-meat protein in their meal at least once a week. Of that total, 22% said they are using non-meat proteins more often than the year before. Last year, total plant-based meat sales topped $606 million.
This impressive category growth has spurred influential companies and thought leaders to invest in Beyond Meat, including Tyson Foods, which acquired a 5% stake in the company last fall, General Mills' venture capital arm 301 INC, and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates. The company's partnership with meal kit company Chef'd also signals growing industry confidence in both the plant-based space and Beyond Meat's brand. It will be interesting if this partnership and the company's anticipated U.K. expansion will help lure non-vegan consumers and push its products more into the mainstream.