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Beyond Meat's new burgers let you choose more juice or more health

Now What finds out why Beyond Meat will soon make two different burgers.

Brian Cooley Editor at Large
Brian Cooley is CNET's Editor at large and has been with the brand since 1995. He currently focuses on electrification of vehicles but also follows the big trends in smart home, digital healthcare, 5G, the future of food, and augmented & virtual realities. Cooley is a sought after presenter by brands and their agencies when they want to understand how consumers react to new technologies. He has been a regular featured speaker at CES, Cannes Lions, Advertising Week and The PHM HealthFront™. He was born and raised in Silicon Valley when Apple's campus was mostly apricots.
Expertise Automotive technology, Smart home, Digital health Credentials
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Brian Cooley
3 min read

Strikingly authentic plant-based burgers and sausages are becoming unremarkable. But their success will breed a big and crowded market, which may make it harder for us to choose and harder for the pioneering brands to stand out. Now what?

Beyond Meat is tackling that by splitting its burger into two distinct products, one emphasizing juicy taste, the other emphasizing health. It's an interesting turn in a category that previously didn't acknowledge "tastier but less healthy" as a position. One of the company's two new burgers arriving in early 2021 will have 35% less fat than 80/20 ground beef, the other will have 55% less fat. Both are different products than the current Beyond Burger, which they will replace. Market names and pricing for each have yet to be announced. We spoke to Beyond Meat CEO Ethan Brown to get a read on the strategy and what it tells us about the plant-based meat market. You can watch the interview in the video above.

New Beyond Burgers

Beyond Meat is forking its burger "platform" to offer one variant with 35% less fat than 80/20 beef, and another with 55% less.

Beyond Meat

"This is one step further in our journey," says Brown, adding that the new burgers also tested better for taste. The current Beyond Burger is the 2.0 product, which ushered in a more realistic look and mouth feel than Beyond Meat's first burger.

Brown is the first to admit that the company can't yet perfectly replicate beef burgers, though his previous career in the fuel cell industry assures him it will. "The challenge there was that diesel engines kept getting more efficient. Animal protein is not getting more efficient. It's standing still. So we are able to collapse the differences every year through science and technology." 

Beyond Meat e-nose and e-mouth

Beyond Meat's development lab includes an "e-nose" machine (l.) to develop aroma and an "e-mouth" (r.) to perfect mouth feel.

Beyond Meat

The biggest difference between animal and plant-based meat is still the price. The USDA shows the average price of 80/20 ground beef is about $4.50 a pound while a good price for Beyond's burgers is around $5.70 for a half-pound two-pack. Brown says his company is on track to meet or beat the price of animal meat in at least one category by the middle of this decade as he promised two years ago.

Raw Beyond burger meat

Cost per pound is still the biggest difference between plant-based meats and their conventional animal targets. At a time of pandemic-driven financial insecurity, that can add some headwind.

Beyond Meat

The USDA also predicts that per-capita meat consumption in the US will actually rise as plant-based meats expand accessibility, as with Beyond's recent expansion into Pizza Hut and CVS locations, and Impossible Foods launch of home delivery. Brown concedes that "it's premature to suggest that (meat's) days are numbered. It's a very big industry with an enormous amount of market share." But he says the USDA is the last place to look for accurate indicators of future food technology trends.

Financial markets (and ordinary people) will have a close eye on a scale launch of plant-based burgers at McDonalds and which companies can achieve price parity with beef -- both could indicate that alt protein is fully mainstream. 

Brown's north star is that if plant-based meat "tastes just like animal protein, delivers a satiating experience, and provides all these health benefits, it's a very unusual case" to find someone who won't switch to it. But the battles ahead are becoming about how plant-based brands differentiate in their sector, not just how the sector differentiates from animal meat.


Now What is a video interview series with industry leaders, celebrities and influencers that covers trends impacting businesses and consumers amid the "new normal." There will always be change in our world, and we'll be here to discuss how to navigate it all.   

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.