- Perdue Foods is launching chicken nuggets, tenders and patties blended with vegetables in its new Chicken Plus line. The company partnered with The Better Meat Co. to source some of its ingredients.
- The new product line is made of cauliflower, chickpeas, plant protein and white meat chicken. Each serving contains one-quarter cup — or half a serving — of vegetables. It is made with 100% all-natural ingredients and antibiotic-free chicken, according to the release.
- The product comes in 22-oz bags with a suggested retail price of $6.99. It will be available in grocery stores and in food service across the country starting in September.
Perdue is the latest company to venture into the increasingly competitive plant-based space. The move shouldn't come as a surprise since Perdue expressed interest last year in introducing plant-based options to its lineup. This blended product line is likely the poultry company's first step into the category, with fully plant-based products coming in the future.
Perdue joins a long list of companies jumping into the sector this year. The booming category has attracted some of the biggest meat companies as interest continues to skyrocket. Retail sales of plant-based meat products jumped 23% between 2017 and 2018 to more than $760 million, according to Nielsen data. The growth is inspiring traditional food companies to enter the space. Tyson Foods, which recently sold its share in plant-based powerhouse Beyond Meat, plans to launch its own meatless products this summer. Nestlé plans to introduce the plant-based Awesome Burger this fall under its Sweet Earth Brand.
The growing consumer interest in plant-based products could help with the launch of this new line, but Perdue has competition from other plant-based chicken makers. Kellogg's MorningStar Farms offers chicken alternatives, and so do Gardein and Quorn. Plant-based chicken nugget maker Seattle Food Tech recently rebranded as Rebellyous and is moving to a 10,000-square-foot full-scale manufacturing facility this fall in order to scale up its production. Beyond Meat used to offer plant-based chicken strips, but has taken them off the market and is working on a better version. And though the plant-based chicken sector is somewhat crowded, Perdue is the first major chicken producer to launch a blended product.
In the release, Perdue's Chief Marketing Officer Eric Christianson boasted this new product line will "provide an easy way to round out the meal and help parents put an end to the 'eat your vegetables' battle." But these plant-based products aren't just for kids. Giving reasons ranging from wanting to feel healthier and eat cleaner to concern for animal welfare and sustainability, more consumers have limited or eliminated animal products in their diets. And as consumers shift their eating habits, more companies are targeting flexitarians.
Perdue isn't the first major food producer to make a hybrid product. Hormel's Applegate launched blend burgers made with meat and mushrooms earlier this year. Launching mixed vegetable and meat products could be a lucrative strategy. Consumers are increasingly looking to reduce their meat consumption, with 60% of people ages 25 to 70 saying they're cutting back for cost or health reasons, according to HealthFocus International figures. A blended product also doesn't require manufacturers to completely mimic the taste and texture of meat with plant-based ingredients, which can be challenging.
Good Food Institute Director of Corporate Engagement Alison Rabschnuk said in a statement emailed to Food Dive Perdue's blended product paves the way for the release of a fully plant-based product.
"Given their wide distribution, massive consumer base, and reputation in the meat industry, the leadership Perdue is showing here in diversifying its offerings and introducing an innovative plant-based option will have a significant and positive impact on the sector," Rabschnuk said.