Consumers have easily embraced plant-based meat alternatives, with promises like “sustainability” and “eco-friendly” striking a chord with many. The trend doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere either, and the world’s largest meat companies have definitely taken notice. The biggest U.S. meat conglomerates have all positioned themselves to take advantage of the alternative protein business, which is forecast to grow to $450 billion and make up a quarter of the $1.8 trillion meat market by 2040. Below is a detailed look at the faux-meat stakes that U.S. and other global meat giants have established. A more extensive list, including EU suppliers, can be found over at JustFood.
Tyson Foods: One of the largest meat companies in the world, Tyson has perhaps been the most aggressive in positioning itself to capitalize on the popularity of alternative meat. The company previously invested in U.S. plant-based burger firm Beyond Meat and has backed two lab-based meat firms – Upside Foods (formerly Memphis Meats) and Future Meat Technologies – through its Tyson Ventures arm. Tyson exited its Beyond Meat investment in 2019, the same year it introduced its Raised & Rooted brand, which included plant-based products as well as a hybrid burger made from a blend of meat and plant protein. That product line has since dropped the blended burger but is expanding further into fully plant-based offerings, including fresh patties, ground “beef,” and faux bratwurst and Italian sausage. The company has also introduced alternative-meat products under its Jimmy Dean line.
JBS: The Brazil-based meat giant made its most significant move into alternative proteins earlier this year in April with it acquisition of plant-based meat supplier Vitera. The Netherlands-based company already supplies retailers in 25 European countries, including both branded and private-label products. JBS also has its own plant-based brands, Incrivel and Seara. The company in 2020 launched a plant-based protein brand called Ozo via a new U.S. subsidiary, Planterra Foods.
Cargill: U.S.-based food company Cargill in 2017 joined a group of investors that included Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and Virgin founder Richard Branson in backing cultured meat company Memphis Meats, which has since rebranded to Upside Foods. Cargill also invested in cultured meat company Aleph Farms in 2019, followed in early 2020 with an announcement that it was launching plant-based hamburger patties and ground “fake meat” products. Most recently, the company invested in Dutch startup Bflike, which has developed vegan fat and blood platforms that make vegan products more “meat-like”.
Marfig: Another Brazil-based meat major, Marfrig teamed up with Archer Daniels Midland to develop meat-alternative protein products, which they launched under the brand PlantPlus Foods. Marfrig’s own meat-free brand, Revolution, launched with meat-free burgers in 2019 and since have largely been targeted at the foodservice market, with customers including Burger King and Outback Steakhouse.
Smithfield Foods: Owned by China’s WH Group, the U.S. meat major launched its own meat-free range of products in 2019 under the Pure Farmland brand, which includes breakfast patties, meatballs, burgers, and starters. (Sources: JustFood, FoodDive, Bloomberg)