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A Jeff Bezos-backed startup and Oscar Mayer want to charge you a lot more for a meatless hot dog than a meaty one

Grace Dean,Alex Bitter   

A Jeff Bezos-backed startup and Oscar Mayer want to charge you a lot more for a meatless hot dog than a meaty one
  • The hot-dog giant Oscar Mayer is entering the plant-based industry with vegan hot dogs and sausages.
  • Bloomberg reported that they'd probably cost 40% to 60% more than the brand's traditional hot dogs.

Oscar Mayer is entering the plant-based-meat category — but choosing the vegan option is going to cost you.

The company is launching non-animal-meat hot dogs and sausages at retailers nationwide in the US later this year, and Bloomberg reported that they'd most likely cost 40% to 60% more than the brand's traditional hot dogs.

A four-pack of bun-length Oscar Mayer NotHotDogs has a suggested retail price of $5.99, a spokesperson for the Kraft Heinz Not Company told Business Insider. But on Wednesday, an eight-pack of bun-length hot dogs made with meat was selling for $2.84 to $7.99 online at retailers in the Washington, DC, region.

Oscar Mayer NotSausages have a suggested retail price of $7.99 for a four-pack.

The NotHotDogs and NotSausages (with the latter available in Bratwurst and Italian flavors) are being developed through a partnership between Kraft Heinz, Oscar Mayer's parent company, and NotCo, a Chilean plant-based-food company backed by Amazon's founder, Jeff Bezos.

Lucho Lopez-May, the CEO of the joint venture, told Bloomberg that creating a non-meat hot dog was a "massive technological accomplishment."

Still, the launch comes at a time when non-animal-meat sales have been waning after enjoying high demand during the early pandemic in 2020. Total US plant-based-meat sales slid 1% year-on-year to $1.4 billion in 2022, the latest year for which sales information is available, according to the Plant Based Foods Association, a trade group.

One reason: Many plant-based meats — such as the NotHotDog — still cost more than their animal-derived equivalents.

While manufacturers such as Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods have refined their recipes and manufacturing processes to become more efficient over the past several years, making soy, corn, and other ingredients taste like meat is still one of the most expensive parts of the process, according to a report by New Food Innovation, a UK-based startup accelerator.

On their own, soy and other ingredients tend to be much cheaper than animal meats, per the report. But the fats, oils, flavorings, and other additions that make a plant-based burger look and taste like beef or other meats represent as much as 40% of the manufacturing cost. Meantime, the plant-based proteins themselves account for about 20%.

"Beef as an ingredient is more expensive, but it comes with inbuilt flavor, structure and fat, which plant-based options find costly to replicate," the report said.

Food inflation has also hit plant-based meat sales, with some consumers picking less expensive forms of protein to save money.

Retailers have been trying to narrow the price gap. Nearly five years ago, Beyond Meat CEO Ethan Brown set a goal: sell at least one of the company's products for the same price as its animal-based counterpart.

Technically, Beyond did "achieve price parity with certain products in certain markets recently," Brown said during the company's February earnings call. But back in November, he said Beyond's attempts to reduce prices — and get customers to buy its burgers and sausages as part of their weekly grocery haul instead of just as an occasional novelty — had largely fallen short of expectations.

And now, Beyond is planning to raise prices as it contends with sales declines.

It tried to move from "the niche, early-adopter consumer that we do so well with to the mainstream consumer," Brown said in November, but "it didn't work."


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