Why chicken is taking over plant-based meat
With Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods entering the space and new options filling freezer cases, the potential for the poultry analog suddenly seems limitless.
Megan Poinski, FoodDive
July 20, 2021
The chicken sandwich wars were last year's news. In 2021, the poultry battle royale is over plant-based chicken.
The two leading plant-based meat companies, Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, both said this month that they are launching new chicken products. Beyond Chicken Tenders were launched at about 400 restaurants nationwide on July 8. And the next week, Impossible Foods told Bloomberg it would be debuting chicken nuggets this fall.
Beyond Meat had been working on improving its chicken product for years, Chief Innovation Officer Dariush Ajami said in an interview. The company first introduced plant-based chicken strips in grocery stores in 2012, but quietly discontinued them in 2019 and concentrated on its ground meat and sausages.
After nearly a decade of R&D, Beyond Meat is making another run at chicken tenders. The strips, which use fava bean protein as their base, have consistently ranked on par with actual chicken by consumers, Ajami said. There was a lot of work behind the scenes to bring the chicken up to Beyond Meat's current standards, he noted, with about 200 scientists developing the product.
"They have access to advanced technology in our innovation center," Ajami said. "They use imaging — scanning electron microscopy, confocal laser microscopy — to look at the microstructure of texturized plant protein, ... compare it to the muscle tissue of chicken, and try to match that texture. The same goes for flavor." He went on to describe high-tech electronic "noses" and "mouths" that can compare the smell, composition, texture, chew and mouthfeel of the plant-based chicken products.
Impossible Foods declined to answer Food Dive's questions about its planned chicken launch...
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