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Beyond Meat and Taco Bell to test plant-based steak option

Dive Brief:

  • Beyond Meat and Taco Bell created a plant-based steak product, Beyond Carne Asada, which will be available at select locations in the Dayton, Ohio, area starting Oct. 13. This product was developed as part of Beyond’s long-term partnership with Yum Brands, the company said, and is not the Beyond Steak product Beyond Meat CEO Ethan Brown talked about at the Wall Street Journal’s Global Food Forum in June.
  • The limited time offering, which will cost the same as Taco Bell’s steak option, is made from ingredients including fava bean protein, vital wheat gluten and Taco Bell’s signature spices, the company says. 
  • As plant-based meat makers have moved into new product lines, steak has been seen as the ultimate challenge. This will be the first plant-based whole-cut steak available to a general consumer audience in the United States.

Dive Insight:

When Brown first mentioned plant-based steak this summer, people started talking and speculating about the product Beyond Meat was creating. And even though this Taco Bell launch is something separate from the eventual Beyond Steak product, Beyond Carne Asada should have a similar look, texture and mouth feel as actual steak — something plant-based brands haven’t accomplished on a mass scale yet.

Not many details about the product and the way it is made have surfaced yet. A Beyond Meat spokesperson said in an email that “a simple process of heating, cooling and pressure” give Beyond Carne Asada — and other Beyond Meat products — “the fibrous texture of meat.” In a release about the product, Beyond Meat Chief Innovation Officer Dariush Ajami said the product delivers on the taste and texture of marinated steak.

This is not the first time that Beyond Meat’s partnership with Yum Brands has led the way to similar product offerings eventually appearing under the Beyond brand name. In 2019, Beyond Meat had a trial of Beyond Fried Chicken at an Atlanta area KFC. Last spring, Beyond Meat started telling customers it was launching a chicken alternative, which officially hit foodservice in July 2021. The KFC product was also uniquely formulated for the QSR, but is similar in form and function to Beyond Chicken Tenders and Nuggets for foodservice and found at retail.

But this Beyond Meat product is unique in one way: Beyond Carne Asada costs the same as Taco Bell’s regular steak items. A Beyond Meat spokesperson said in an email that having this product at price parity with meat was important because they wanted “to increase access to craveable plant-based options for fans.” Plant-based meat items usually have a premium price, both at restaurants and retail. Right now, plant-based items are produced at a large enough scale to be available to consumers, but not yet at the massive scale — and therefore lower prices — that more traditional products have.

As a company, Beyond Meat has the goal of getting at least one of its products to price parity with meat by 2024. Brown has said on past earnings calls that they are on their way to getting there, but that the company would be running tests around pricing. This limited-time offer would be a good test case, since it’s a smaller offering and just in one market. However, since it is a brand new type of offering — both for Beyond Meat and for consumers in general — there may be outsized demand from curious consumers, so pricing may not make a difference.

However, this launch does generate some good press — and maybe a bit of reinvigorated investor confidence — for Beyond Meat. The publicly traded plant-based meat company has had a rough year, seeing its share price tumble as demand for plant-based meat slowed precipitously.

Analysts are starting to be pessimistic about Beyond Meat’s turnaround ability. But a new offering that brings something new to plant-based meat and QSRs might perk up some interest, as long as there are no major downsides.

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