If you're in the alternative protein industry, you've probably seen an article from Bloomberg entitled "Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods wanted to upend the world’s $1 trillion meat industry. But plant-based meat is turning out to be a flop," Michael Wolf reported for The Spoon newsletter.
Photo Insert: Plant-based meats cannot replace animal protein or heme, the blood protein that gives meat its taste.
Much of the reaction from those in the alt-protein industry centered on the article's focus on two companies, Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, and many argued that the plant-based meat industry is much bigger than just these two companies.
But as Rachel Konrad, former head of communications for Impossible Foods, said the industry "doth protest too much." Readers also remember how Bloomberg blasted Juicero and became the final nail in the coffin for the juicer startup.
Within days after publication, the company and its high-priced juicer became a symbol of Silicon Valley excess and over-engineered solutions. It wasn't long before the company's venture backers backed out, Wolf explained.
The Bloomberg piece pierced the veil of corporate hubris and how the earliest and loudest voices in the plant-based industry over-promised early on about how quickly consumers would embrace their products, as what Pat Brown, founder of Impossible Foods, made on stage in 2015 at a TED talk and later in an interview with the New Yorker:
“I know it sounds insane to replace a deeply entrenched, trillion-dollar-a-year global industry,” he said, “but it has to be done.”
Four years later, when the New Yorker profiled Impossible, Pat predicted his company would “take a double-digit portion of the beef market” by 2024 before sending it into a “death spiral.”
Next he would target “the pork industry and the chicken industry and say, ‘You’re next!’ and they’ll go bankrupt even faster.”
Ethan Brown has spoken in similar terms about how he felt his company would transform people's diets around the world. Ethan Browne said his plant-based meat would wipe out real meat at the center of the plate.
But the reality is that these visionaries overpromised early market acceptance because, in part, they underestimated how difficult it would be to convince consumers to change their diets.
Part of this has to do with the product themselves; neither Beyond nor Impossible are what you could describe as healthy when compared to a pure, simple ingredient plant-based diet.
Even more importantly, the products' taste profiles aren't nearly close enough to what they are replacing, residing still in what chef Ali Bouzari describes as the “Uncanny Valley of Food.”
Plant-based meats cannot replace animal protein or heme, the blood protein that gives meat its taste. Worse, critics sneer at plant-based meat as processed food soaked in an ocean of salt and sugar, making it unhealthy, and consumers pay more for the stuff.