Plant-based meats whet US summer grilling appetites
Burgers made from plants instead of animals are capturing more space on U.S. barbecue grills this summer, fueling sales in the niche products that could reach $5 billion globally by 2020.
Plant-based meat foods are now available that include beet juice for color and canola oil to simulate fat. These changes are not only pulling in consumers but also one of the powerhouses in traditional meat production, Tyson Foods Inc.
Tyson jumped into the sector last October when it bought a 5 percent stake in California-based Beyond Meat. Tyson's Chief Executive Officer Tom Hayes has said demand for plant-based protein is growing a little faster than for animal-based.
That trend was in evidence at a recent picnic of the Christian Tabernacle Church - a small primarily African American congregation in Chicago's western suburb of Roselle.
Five grills seared veggie burgers alongside summertime meat staples: ribs, bratwurst and hog dogs. Church member Doug Parker said vegetarian foods were added to the traditional mix two years ago to address the rise in youth obesity.
"I had to make a lifestyle change and I like the veggie burgers a lot. They've come a long way from a time when they tasted like vegetables," said Parker, who has cut back on meat since being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes eight years ago.
The U.S. summer grilling season, which runs from early May to September and includes three holidays, is a key sales period for burgers, ribs, steaks, and now alternative meats. The period accounted for $23.74 billion of retail meat revenues in 2016, according to Nielsen Research, when total meat revenues were $76.43 billion.
Agents for change