We Tried Beyond Meat’s Latest Plant-Based Creation: Here’s How It Stacks Up

In the ever-evolving world of plant-based meat alternatives, Beyond Meat has consistently been at the forefront. From their groundbreaking veggie burgers to their impressive stock market debut, they have captivated both consumers and investors alike. However, the past year has not been as kind to the plant-based meat giant. Facing declining sales and increased competition, Beyond Meat is now unveiling their latest creation: plant-based steak.

While it may not be a juicy rib-eye or a tender T-bone, these steak “tips” offer a meaty texture that can be used in a variety of dishes, from tacos to stir-fries to sandwiches. What sets this product apart is its use of “whole muscle” technology, a rarity in the plant-based meat market. This innovative approach aims to replicate the texture and taste of a traditional steak, and our team of Vox colleagues was fortunate enough to try it out firsthand.

Our group consisted of both vegetarians and omnivores, providing a diverse range of perspectives. Each of us had our own take on the plant-based steak, with opinions varying on the texture and how closely it resembled real beef. Libby Nelson, Vox’s policy editor, was pleasantly surprised, commenting, “My initial thoughts are very positive. They’ve really nailed it with this one.” Coming from a background of Nebraska beef, Libby had high standards, and she mentioned that if she hadn’t been told it was meat-free, she might have assumed it was real beef.

However, not everyone was entirely convinced. Keren Landman, a health and science reporter, felt that the texture was slightly lacking. “There’s a little toughness that’s missing,” she said. Despite this, she still enjoyed the “little fibers” in each bite. Meanwhile, Jonquilyn Hill, a podcast producer, felt that the plant-based steak fell short of fooling her into thinking it was real meat. “It is very good, but as a person who eats meat, it’s very obviously not meat,” she remarked.

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These varying opinions reminded us of how expectations can shape our perception of food. When plant-based meat is used in a dish with oil, spices, and vegetables, it becomes much harder to distinguish between plant-based and animal-based options. Our personal experiences and preferences play a significant role in how we perceive the taste and texture of these alternatives.

While the taste and texture of plant-based meat may not exactly replicate that of animal-based meat when consumed alone, it truly shines when incorporated into dishes. This suggests that our familiarity and expectations of certain flavors play a substantial role in how we perceive the quality of plant-based alternatives. The perceived inferiority of plant-based meat, coupled with its higher price point, may be factors hindering its widespread adoption.

Despite these challenges, Beyond Meat remains committed to pushing the boundaries of plant-based meat innovation. Their new plant-based steak tips, made with faba bean protein and wheat gluten, offer both an environmentally friendly and animal welfare-conscious alternative. Additionally, their “whole muscle” technology sets them apart from competitors by providing a more fibrous texture, mimicking the experience of consuming a traditional cut of meat.

Starting today, Beyond Meat’s steak tips will be available in thousands of Kroger and Walmart locations, as well as select Albertsons and Ahold stores. This expansion into mainstream grocery stores and availability to food distributors opens the door for wider adoption and potential inclusion on restaurant menus soon.

The plant-based meat market has faced its fair share of challenges, with some predicting its demise or relegation to niche status. Fast food trials have been hit or miss, and even industry giants like JBS and Maple Leaf Foods have scaled back their plant-based operations. However, there are still bright spots, with brands like Gardein and Impossible Foods experiencing growth in retail sales. Companies like Nestlé and ADM remain bullish on the future of plant-based food, citing continued consumer demand and potential for further growth.

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While recent supermarket sales data for plant-based meat in the US may appear stagnant, it’s important to consider the context. The industry experienced a significant surge in sales in 2020 due to panic-buying during the pandemic. Although sales have leveled off since then, there has still been an overall increase in demand compared to previous years. Beyond Meat attributes their recent performance to increased competition and higher inflation, both of which may impact consumer choices.

Looking beyond the US market, there is a strong growth forecast for plant-based meat sales in the UK, Germany, China, and the Netherlands. Innova Market Insights predicts a 10 to 15 percent increase in these regions from 2021 to 2023. Beyond Meat’s widely available plant-based steak tips may carve out a niche for themselves, but they will soon face competition from Impossible Foods, who have announced plans for a plant-based filet mignon.

Innovation and continuous improvement will be pivotal in maintaining and expanding market share. The plant-based meat industry is still in its early stages, with new players, products, and ingredients constantly entering the market. Delivering cleaner ingredient lists and better taste will be essential for these companies to remain competitive. With the ever-evolving tastes of consumers and their desire for novelty, the plant-based meat industry must continue to adapt and improve.

In conclusion, while Beyond Meat’s plant-based steak tips may not fully satisfy the cravings of a devoted steak lover, they represent a step forward in the world of plant-based alternatives. The innovative “whole muscle” technology and the company’s commitment to continued research and development are promising signs for the future. As the plant-based meat market matures and expands, there is still plenty of room for growth, innovation, and the potential to revolutionize our culinary landscape.

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