- Hormel Foods is launching a non-GMO meat substitute under its new Happy Little Plants brand made with soy protein that can be used in any recipe calling for ground meat, the company said in a release.
- The plant-based ground product contains 20 grams of protein and 180 calories per serving, has no preservatives or cholesterol, and is gluten-free, Hormel said. It will initially be available at select Hy-Vee outlets in Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska and Wisconsin, although the company noted more locations will be added in the future.
- The Happy Little Plants line is being created as part of Hormel's first project under its Cultivated Foods umbrella. Company shares were up Sept. 4 after the news was announced, CNBC reported, but they later dropped by a fraction.
With this new Happy Little Plants brand of meat alternatives, the maker of Spam, bacon, ham and pepperoni seems to be acknowledging the popularity of the plant-based sector and wants to get a slice of the ever-increasing action.
Consumers are looking to reduce their meat consumption, with 60% of those ages 25 to 70 saying they're cutting back for cost or health reasons, according to HealthFocus International figures. So plant-based meat substitutes coming from well-known legacy food companies such as Hormel could attract additional audiences in addition to those already used to buying its brands.
That name familiarity could be an asset since Hormel is arriving a little bit late to the plant-based party. The delay may not matter if the company can quickly get its new ground meat alternative into stores nationwide so the brand can more effectively compete with the Beyond Burger, Impossible Burger and all the other plant-based products already there. However, many of the other manufacturers are slowly getting into the plant-based ground meat market, giving Hormel's new product a chance to fit into the niche.
Hormel isn't the only major manufacturer just now getting into this space. Tyson Foods introduced a plant-based nugget product under its new Raised & Rooted brand and planned to have it on shelves at 4,000 retail outlets and in food service distribution by the end of this month. And on the same day the Happy Little Plants brand was announced, Kellogg's MorningStar Farms said it is developing plant-based burgers and chicken under its new Incogmeato brand. An ambitious distribution schedule is likely necessary to try and catch up with the competition, and long-time food companies may be better positioned to get that done.
Meat producers have a big incentive to edge into the plant-based sector. Sales of plant-based meat alternatives jumped 42% between March 2016 and March 2019 to $888 million, according to Nielsen figures cited by AP. Meanwhile, conventional meat sales only increased 1% to $85 billion during that period.
Hormel has been moving more toward the plant-based sector with the recent introduction of its Applegate brand of blended organic burgers combining turkey or beef with mushrooms. As the first major food producer marketing a hybrid burger featuring both meat and plants, Hormel is appealing to consumers looking for clean labels without other additives, flavors or colorings, as well as those who aren't yet ready to quit eating meat.
The Happy Little Plants line might bolster sales and draw interest from new consumers. The company's third-quarter earnings report released last month showed $2.3 billion in sales for the quarter, which was in line with analyst forecasts and mainly driven by packaged bacon and refrigerated food. However, African swine fever has had a negative impact on the company's pork products, so a boost from the Applegate blended products and this new plant-based line might be a welcome development for Hormel.