The biggest meat producer in the U.S. is going meatless.
Tyson Foods, the maker of hot dogs, steak strips, and chicken nuggets, announced last week it plans to debut a vegan protein this year, marking its foray into the plant-based meat market as the demand for vegan options reaches an all-time high.
Noel White, president and chief executive at Tyson Foods TSN, -1.12% said during its first-quarter earnings call that the brand aims to make “great tasting protein alternatives that are accessible for everyone,” the Arkansas Democrat Gazette reported. The company has not specified whether it will sell plant-based ground meat or a packaged product line.
The meat company will announce the new product in the coming weeks, White told the Gazette. (Tyson declined to comment, but a spokesman directed MarketWatch to White’s comments during the earnings call.)
It’s no surprise that specialty vegan products including jackfruit, black bean burgers, mushroom mince and cauliflower are becoming popular substitutes for barbecue meats such as steak and sausage.
One-third of all Americans, and 37% of millennials, plan to buy more plant-based products over the next year, according to Mintel’s 2018 Summer Food & Drink Trends report. And while the majority of North American consumers still opt for meat as their primary source of protein, 23% of eaters want more plant-based options on shelves, according to data from Nielsen.
More brands continue to show interest in the growing category.Tyson first invested in California-based vegan meat alternative company Beyond Meat in 2016. Fast-food chain Shake Shack SHAK SHAK, +0.36% added another veggie burger to its menu last year made with black beans, brown rice and roasted beets.
Last April, White Castle, known for its square beef sliders, started serving the Impossible Burger, which is made with a red iron molecule called heme that’s found in meat and some plants. It makes food cook, bleed and taste like real beef.
Impossible Foods — the makers behind the Impossible Burger — said last month its plans to beef up its meatless portfolio by adding a vegan steak next.
Also read: Beyond Meat is going public: 5 things you need to know about the plant-based meat maker
The total market for the plant-based food sector had more than $3.1 billion in revenue in 2017, and retail sales for meatless meals have grown 18.3%, according to a report from Nielsen, the Good Food Institute and the Plant Based Foods Association.
Tyson has spent $12 billion in recent years to expand its packaged foods category with brands like Jimmy Dean sausage and organic brand Smart Chicken.
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