Beyond Meat's chairman reveals how the meat industry hit a 'bottleneck' that's sparked a revolt among shoppers hungry for change
- Beyond Meat executive chairman Seth Goldman said that the "balance of power" in the meat industry has shifted in favor of consumers.
- He said that consumers have seen "diminishing returns" as the meat industry strives to lower costs - and they're eager for more choices.
- As a result, he said plant-based meat alternatives have the chance to capture a significant portion of the market.
- He pointed to the dairy industry as an example of the "profound opportunity" that lies before Beyond Meat.
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LAS VEGAS - Beyond Meat executive chairman Seth Goldman says that the "balance of power in the food system" has undergone a crucial shift.
And, speaking at the second annual Groceryshop conference in Las Vegas on Monday, Goldman broke down his view that the rise of plant-based meat alternatives like Beyond Meat is set to shake up the meat category - which he described as the largest and least diverse category in food - in the years to come.
He said that part of the reason for this lies in the recent history of the meat industry.
"Over the previous 50 years ... we were able to increase the speed and lower the cost of raising animals," he said.
Successful players in the meat industry thrived by lowering costs and increasing scale, which meant finding ways to raise livestock quickly and cheaply. But, Goldman said, the continued drive to squeeze the most value out of animals has had an unintended consequence.
"What happens is the meat industry starts to hit a bottleneck," he said. "And the bottleneck, in this case, is the animal. There's only so many more animals we can produce on so much land. As we think about scaling protein across the planet, the bottleneck is apparent."
Goldman, who is also the cofounder and "TeaEO emeritus" of Honest Tea, said that consumers have seen "diminishing returns" as the meat industry scrambles to "lower the costs," including controversial measures like relying on artificial measures like hormones to make livestock bigger, quicker to reproduce, or tastier.
"The consumer doesn't really embrace that in the way that they might just embrace lower costs," Goldman said.
The result? Shoppers have grown hungry for alternative options, spurred on by growing concerns about the ethics and environmental impact of meat consumption and industrial livestock operations.
"So then the question becomes, 'Well, what are the other options?' Goldman added. "What other options do we have other than what exists in the meat category?"
Goldman said that the team at Beyond Meat was particularly inspired by changes in the selection of dairy options. He showed the audience a picture of a dairy aisle from 1985, which was dominated by regular cow milk. Pulling up a recent photo of a dairy aisle, Goldman pointed out the "proliferation of plant-based options" that have risen up to snag "about 13% of the dairy category."
"As consumers wanted more choice, they moved in that direction," he said, calling the shift in the meat category a "profound opportunity" for plant-based meat alternatives like Beyond Meat.
"It used to be that manufacturers would produce something, grocery stores would carry it, and the consumer would buy it," Goldman said. "But now with consumers having more power, things are moving in different directions."
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