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The two American companies are not the first to create innovative alternative proteins (known as APs, such as tofu), meat analogues, or imitation meat (e.g. veggie burgers, tofurkey). Other start-ups such as Memphis Meats and Mosa Meats are creating animal-based cell-cultured meats. But Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods are the first start-ups to market their non-meat products to meat eaters (or “lovers,”), not vegetarians or vegans. The companies excel at targeted marketing: meatless meats bring to mind foods with all the sensory and nutritional benefits of meat without any of its environmental or health harms – but meatless meats are simply rebranded, repackaged, and reimagined meat analogues. After all, their products contain plants, just like veggie burgers. The difference in terminology between meatless meats and meat analogues or imitation meat is primarily in intended audience – not in substance.

Beets are the secret to Beyond Burger’s bleeding patty, while the “magic” ingredient that simulates sizzling fat in the Impossible Burger is genetically-modified plant-based heme, an iron-compound found in most animal muscles. The long-term health and nutrition impacts of meatless meat are not yet fully known. However, both the Beyond and Impossible Burger burgers contain 20 grams of plant protein per serving, relatively equivalent to one beef patty. Compared to normal burgers, these patties have significantly more calories (40-50 kcal per serving more) and sodium (about six times as much). The difference between beef and vegetable fats is also striking – the Impossible Burger has 15 grams of saturated fat (triple that of a beef burger) – and may contribute to any taste differential noticed by a serious meat eater(link is external).

Strategic marketing is the key to both start-up successes. Beyond Meat expressly focuses only on grocery stores: their Future of Protein mission is to “reimagine the meat section as the protein section of the store,” with their products placed alongside beef, chicken, and pork. Beyond Meat’s products – chicken strips, meat crumbles, and the signature burger patty – are sold in 11,000 grocery stores throughout the United States, with recent increases in higher-end “fast casual” restaurants.

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Image: By Mx. Granger – Own work, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=54673517

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