- MorningStar Farms committed to become completely plant-based and vegan by 2021, according to a release. The Kellogg-owned company's newest innovation is a vegan "Cheezeburger" that will debut at Expo West this week.
- The product adds plant-based cheddar "cheeze" to the vegan Meat Lovers quarter-pound patty, resulting in 23 grams of plant-based protein. Mel Cash, Kellogg's head of global marketing for plant based protein, said in a release that the new patty will make it easier for consumers to add plant-based proteins to their diets both "at home and on-the-go."
- The new Cheezeburger is being added to the brand's growing lineup of 100% plant-based options. The full lineup includes MorningStar Farms' Chik’n nuggets and patties as well as the Meat Lovers, Veggie Lovers, Falafel and Tex-Mex burgers.
Converting its entire vegetarian portfolio to vegan is a major shift for MorningStar Farms — and one that Kellogg said will reduce the company's use of more than 300 million egg whites each year. Besides grocery stores, the change will affect products available at more than 25,000 restaurants and eating establishments at K-12 schools, colleges and universities, and hospitals, Kellogg said.
The shift won't happen all at once, although Kellogg noted about half of the MorningStar Farms portfolio had already been transitioned and would increase to about 65% by the end of this year. By 2021, all products — including the Spicy Black Bean Burger and Breakfast Sausage Patties — will be completely plant-based, the company said.
Some MorningStar Farms chicken alternatives — Morningstar Buffalo Wings, Chik'n Nuggets and Buffalo Chik Patties — made the shift last year in the U.K. They had previously contained egg whites and milk fat.
Kellogg believes this move is in the best interest of the company and its bottom line, since a significant number of consumers are looking toward vegan and plant-based options. According to research from Nielsen, 39% of U.S. consumers were actively seeking to add more plant-based foods to their diets in 2017, and a 2015 study from the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future showed 60% are limiting at least one type of meat in their diets due to cost or health concerns.
Reducing the use of more than 300 million egg whites each year will also yield financial benefits since the price and supply of eggs have been fluctuating in recent years. Cash said in the release that the formulation change will help the company reduce water waste, land use and carbon emissions that accompany egg production — bringing important sustainability points along with it. A company’s commitment to sustainability can sway product purchases for about 45% of consumers, according to Nielsen, so this commitment could attract more people to their products.
Whether transitioning to being entirely plant-based will make the MorningStar Farms lineup more expensive isn't clear yet, although adding what Kellogg's release called "ooey gooey plant-based cheddar 'cheeze' " to the vegan Meat Lovers product is likely to increase its price tag.
MorningStar Farms is an old-school brand from the earliest days of soy-based "veggie burgers," but this move could boost its profile right up there alongside today's popular plant-based meat alternatives, such as the Beyond Burger, the Impossible Burger and Nestlé's new Incredible Burger. Being identified as an all-vegan product line could help the longtime brand stand out among the growing competition. But the company might not stand out for long. Kellogg's formulation change could influence other big CPG manufacturers that are considering such a shift, which could end up being the most significant aspect of this news.