- Tyson Foods is the first major meat company to invest in a plant protein-based company, it announced in a news release Monday.
- Tyson acquired a 5% stake in meat alternatives producer Beyond Meat, which uses non-meat protein sources like soy and pea to create plant-based, meat-like products.
- Monica McGurk, who joined Tyson after serving as a Coca-Cola executive, told The New York Times that Beyond Meat is "a game-changing product that gives us exposure to this fast-growing part of the food business."
This is a first for a major meat producer, and a big first at that, because it demonstrates the meat industry's recognition of plant-based proteins as both a viable competitor and a profitable addition to their own portfolios. If Tyson can't beat plant proteins, it might as well join them so the company can reap the benefits of a competitive and fast-growing category that could threaten meat's dominance down the line.
It's not surprising that Tyson was the first. The company has demonstrated its interest in up-and-coming concepts in the food industry, such as e-commerce, its partnerships with Amazon and Alibaba and its line of meal kits. E-commerce could be particularly difficult for a meat producer versus a processed, shelf-stable food manufacturer. But Tyson has not shied away from consumer trends, even when they seem difficult to adapt to the company's portfolio.
Beyond Meat has not only created meat-like, plant protein-based products, but the products also have similar characteristics, such as a veggie burger that sizzles on the grill. Adjusting food chemistry to make plant protein products more "realistic" could help the category capture more consumers who enjoy eating meat but are looking for protein alternatives they think are healthier or more sustainable.