By Rebecca Heilweil
As Beyond Meat, which saw early 2019's most successful initial public offering, and Impossible Foods, which has racked up nearly $700 million in investments, battle for dominance in the U.S. plant-based meat alternative market, smaller competitors are hoping to carve out their own particular niches.
One meat-alternative company throwing itself into the mix: Switzerland-based Planted, which, like its peers, is hoping to attract flexitarians. Its first product: a pea-protein based chicken that the company is already introducing to restaurants and food service companies.
Planted's "meat" is manufactured somewhat like pasta: pea-protein is mixed with water and then kneaded into shape. Controlling the room pressure and temperature helps ensure the product's texture mimics chicken. "When you cook it, and you marinate it with whatever you want to cook it with, it will taste like the chicken you know," co-founder Pascal Bieri told Cheddar.
Planted also claims its chicken has a longer shelf-life than typical meat, lasting about 30 days. "That just gives you a competitive advantage against meat, which is what we're going against," explained Bieri.
"You don't really need a dead animal on your plate, but you want the sensation of eating meat," he added. "I think it comes down to what we like as humans. We don't want to change too much. If we want to live the most sustainable life ever, we would just eat lentils all day."
Similar to its competitors, Planted asserts that its product is more ecologically sustainable than animal meat, and says its calculations show that its product saves as much two-thirds of greenhouse gas emissions and farming land typically required for 'traditional' chicken.
Beyond Meat uses pea protein, and Tyson also is introducing pea protein-based products. But Impossible Foods has avoided using the plant in its products, with the company arguing that peas risk short-term shortages.
"So when you look at our input ingredients, they don't include things like pea protein, for which, there may be, at certain times, difficulty in getting enough," CFO David Lee told Cheddar in May. (Impossible Foods is reportedly investigating the prospects of a chicken product as well].
"I don't know if its the right thing for the entire industry. It's hard to deal with pea. Soy is much easier," said Bieri. "Pea is not the end-game here. Our chicken is not going to taste the same now as it does in two years. We're working on the recipe."
He said that the company isn't necessarily committing to always using pea protein, but that its products will always be plant-based.