Kraft Heinz and Campbell Soup play catch-up in plant-based category
- Kraft Heinz has reformulated and rebranded its Boca burger to better compete in the growing plant-based foods category, according to Food Business News. The improved product was introduced at the Natural Products Expo West show.
- Also at the show, and underscoring the plant-based category's growth, Campbell Soup's senior vice president Carlos Barroso said his company is "literally scouring the earth" for new sources of protein, with a specific focus on plants.
- Last year, the plant-based food category grew 8.1% and surpassed $3.1 billion in sales. Plant-based meat sales grew at a rate of 6%. According to some estimates, the plant-based meat market is set to reach $6.4 billion by 2023, reaching one-third of the market by 2050.
The vegetarian burger has been a case study in accelerated innovation. Just 25 years ago, demand for the then-new Boca burgers was so high, major grocers could not keep them in stock. Now, the company is sprinting to catch up to younger, tech-savvy companies like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods.
The question now is, is it too little too late? Can Boca's changes compete with Beyond Meat's Beyond Burger, which mimics a beef patty in taste, texture and appearance? Boca has tried to upgrade before — in 2015 it introduced patties made of quinoa, brown rice and black beans. Still's it's share of the frozen meat substitute category has continued to decline.
If there is good news for Boca, it's that it has the marketing power from Kraft Heinz to shift consumer mindsets. The updated Boca, on the surface, falls in line with current consumer trends by touting protein content on the front of its packaging. That packaging also features a very meaty-looking burger. A new iteration was necessary — recent technology advancements have changed the entire conversation around plant-based food, and Boca has not been a part of that conversation. For example, Impossible Burgers figured out how to use a biochemical process to make its plant-based burger "bleed" and sear like real meat.
It has been two years since Google listed plant-based proteins as the most important trend in technology, noting that the industry is entering a revolution of replacing livestock with plant-based proteins.
This is also where Campbell is trying to gain ground with its search for new plant-based proteins, which could boost plunging soup sales. This fits consumer demand for more variety, but it has also become a necessity — as the population continues to grow, the industry seeks protein sources to supplement or replace meat.
Fortunately, millennial consumers consider themselves to be flexitarians — taking protein from any source so long as the flavor is there. Boca and Campbell's executives said getting the texture and taste right has been a challenge.These attributes will need to be honed to perfection if Boca and Campbell's products want to stand a chance in the crowded plant-based market, which continues to innovate and deliver premium eating experiences.
Follow Alicia Kelso on Twitter