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Beyond Meat owns the plant-based meat market, for now

It was just a matter of time before we saw Beyond Meat, the California-based company partially owned by Bill Gates and meat-giant Tyson Foods, make a jump from drive-throughs to grocery store shelves. Beyond Meat recently announced its vegan burger would be available at several large Canadian grocers beginning in May. It will be interesting to see if grocers put Beyond Meat patties in the meat case or somewhere close to the meat counter. It will also be interesting to see how Beyond Meat’s price point compares to animal protein products. This could bring some dearly needed top-line growth to declining meat counter sales.

Canadians will be able to purchase the plant-based burgers at IGA, Loblaws, Fresh Street Market, Longo's, Metro, Save-On-Foods, Sobeys and Whole Foods Market. Beyond Meat’s capacity to deliver, execute and supply all these outlets is impressive. And, such an oligopolistic endorsement of the product is making the senior leadership team at A&W, which introduced Beyond Meat to Canadians a few years ago, look like geniuses.

Canadians remain quite attached to meat consumption, but an increasing number are reconsidering their health priorities. Other drivers are animal welfare and environmental stewardship, but health appears to be influencing a large base of the marketplace. Nutritionally, the case for Beyond Meat may be very strong, but the texture of the product and the way it reacts to the BBQ doesn't replicate true meat, at least not yet.

Beyond Meat is planning an initial public offering that will value the company at US$1.2 billion. It is an impressive number, considering how niche plant-based dieting was just a few years ago. As a publicly-traded company, Beyond Meat will become a more transparent company than others in the space. This is a good strategy, given how much the meat industry has been criticized over the years for not being transparent enough.

Beyond Meat is an American product, fostered and propelled by very bright American entrepreneurial spirits, but American nonetheless. Our way of thinking regarding food innovation suppresses any chance for a company to come up with a project like this. There are glimmers of hope, however. Startups are erupting, which will eventually bring a proper dosage of innovation.

These companies need to watch how the plant-based market evolves. Not all vegetable proteins are created equal. Consumers who look to reduce their meat consumption are often concerned with getting adequate protein. Canadian startups--or Maple Leaf Foods, which just announced a new meatless plant built in Indiana--can capitalize on the plant-based trend over time. For a while, Beyond Meat will own this space, along with other firms such as Impossible Foods. Opportunities will present themselves for Canadian companies to consider, but they need to be ready.

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