- Plant-based food brand Field Roast is launching its first faux chicken product: Plant-Based Nuggets.
- The non-GMO nuggets are made from ingredients including roasted garlic, wheat and pea protein, the company said. They have no soy, artificial ingredients or colors added. Each serving has 14 grams of protein.
- The products are currently available at Albertsons, Sobey's and Price Chopper locations, but expected to expand this summer to other retailers.
Plant-based chicken has been notoriously difficult to get into. Nuggets, however, are an easy way to toe into a new plant-based realm. They're convenient, easy to prepare and — much like burgers and hot dogs — are a familiar and "all-American" thing to eat.
Field Roast is known for its plant-based sausages, deli slices, hot dogs, turkey-like Celebration Roasts and Chao cheeses. Its parent company Greenleaf Foods also owns Lightlife, a plant-based brand that makes burgers, hot dogs, deli meats and tempeh. Between those two brands, only Lightlife had something chicken-like before — an unbreaded tender made out of soy and wheat protein.
Before Beyond Meat had the burgers everyone is talking about, it had chicken strips sold in grocery stores, which were quietly discontinued last year. Part of that is because it's difficult to mimic the look and taste of real chicken. But another part, plant-based chicken maker Rebellyous Foods' founder Christie Lagally wrote in an editorial for Food Dive, is the massive size and scale of the chicken industry. Big Chicken is enormous, she wrote, and can comfortably absorb losses of five times the amount of product that the entire plant-based industry makes in a year.
However, other food makers are joining Field Roast in trying to break into this market. Rebellyous is charging forward to beat the status quo, raising $6 million in funding this spring and plans to pivot its foodservice-first model toward retail. And other companies are also trying to get into the plant-based chicken game. Daring Foods got a $10 million investment from Rastelli Group last year to bring its plant-based chicken to a wide U.S. audience. And Nuggs, a direct-to-consumer pea-based nugget brand manufactured by McCain Foods, launched this year. Beyond Meat has even returned to chicken, testing wildly popular Beyond Fried Chicken — which sold out quickly at a few KFCs. And major chicken manufacturers have tested the waters in this space, with Tyson's Raised & Rooted nuggets and Perdue's blended Chicken Plus line.
If any plant-based company has the momentum to succeed at nuggets in the grocery store, it could be Field Roast. The company has been around since 1997, which is ancient in the plant-based meat sector. Parent company Greenleaf Foods is the plant-based division of Canadian behemoth Maple Leaf Foods. According to Maple Leaf's most recent earnings report, Q1 2020 sales in its Plant Protein Group were up 25.9% compared to a year ago, reaching $46.3 million Canadian dollars ($33.05 million). Greenleaf is currently also building North America's largest plant-based manufacturing plant in Shelbyville, Indiana.
The question that remains is whether consumers have the appetite for plant-based chicken. Considering the quick sellout of Beyond Meat's trial at KFC, the consumer desire is there. It's more a matter of getting them to pick up a package of plant-based nuggets at the grocery store. Demand for chicken nuggets has actually been stalling, researchers say, but that could be because the category is in need of a refresh. A plant-based option could help do just that, especially one from a manufacturer that already has the connections, brand recognition and products in many grocery stores nationwide.