- Lightlife Foods is rolling out a plant-based burger and three other products this spring made with pea protein and free of GMOs, gluten, soy and artificial flavors, the company announced. The Lightlife Burger has 20 grams of protein, no cholesterol and 2.5 grams of saturated fat in a quarter-pound patty.
- The Lightlife Burger will begin shipping to foodservice customers in January and will be available in retail stores in late March. The company is also unveiling a full product portfolio redesign. Other new products — including plant-based ground, bratwurst sausage and Italian sausage — will launch after the burger.
- "We didn't join the plant-based category overnight — we've long been pioneering the industry," Dan Curtin, Lightlife Foods president, said in a release. "Our new burger is delicious thanks to decades of culinary know-how, and we know we'll be serving up an entirely better experience for consumers who want a break from traditional meat or whose palates are craving a new adventure."
While Lightlife has been making quinoa, black bean and veggie tempeh burgers for quite a while, this is the company's first plant-based burger made with pea protein, virgin coconut oil and beet powder. Lightlife has said these ingredients "work together to make a juicy and meaty burger." But consumers will be the judge of that. Taste is a big factor when it comes to the success of plant-based burgers, so sales at restaurants and grocery stores will show if those pronouncements ring true.
According to the Bloomberg, the company is looking for the burger and the other new products in its lineup to win new consumers beyond the vegans and vegetarians that make up its core consumer base. Lightlife President Dan Curtin told the newspaper that the marketing budget for the new product is the largest in the company's history. That budget could help this new burger stand out in an increasingly crowded market.
The Lightlife Burger will have plenty of company in the retail marketplace. Beyond Foods' Beyond Burger has had a strong foothold in the space for years, while Nestlé is launching a Garden Gourmet plant-based Incredible Burger, and Impossible Foods' Impossible Burger will join them in grocery stores this spring. However, Lightlife has also been around much longer than Beyond Foods and Impossible Foods, so its reputation and popularity may prove to be assets in this launch.
Lightlife could also enjoy significant logistical advantages over its competitors by being part of Maple Leaf Foods. It was founded in 1979 as a plant-based pioneer and is now part of a wholly owned independent subsidiary of Canada's top packaged meat provider. Maple Leaf has branched out in recent years by buying plant-based product manufacturers such as Lightlife and Field Roast Grain Meat.
The access to in-house R&D experts at Maple Leaf helped the burger take just six months from idea to production, Curtin told the Tribune. Also, existing client relationships and distribution networks mean the company might more easily win retail space and restaurant interest.
Additionally, the Lightlife Burger and the three other new products in the lineup have the advantage of being made from pea protein — as is the Beyond Burger. The Impossible Burger and the Incredible Burger both contain soy and wheat protein, so consumers wanting to avoid those ingredients for allergy or other reasons are more likely to stick with vegan protein products that don't contain them.
The company's timing is good since plant-based foods are winning more fans every year. Sales of plant-based foods jumped 20% in the past year to more than $3.3 billion, according to data from Nielsen and the Plant Based Foods Association. Plant-based meat alternatives totaled $670 million in sales — which was a 24% jump compared to 6% in 2017. But even with the growing marketplace, Lightlife will need to attract consumers quickly in order to beat out the competition.