Can a Healthier Plant-Based Burger Combat Falling U.S. Sales?

Beyond Meat hopes so.

This image provided by Beyond Meat shows packaging for the latest iteration of the plant-based Beyond Burger.
This image provided by Beyond Meat shows packaging for the latest iteration of the plant-based Beyond Burger.
Beyond Meat, Inc. via AP

Beyond Meat is revamping its signature plant-based burger, hoping that healthier ingredients will help it boost flagging U.S. sales.

The El Segundo, California-based company said Wednesday its new Beyond Burger patties and Beyond Beef grounds cut saturated fat by 60% by switching from canola and coconut oils to avocado oil. The new beef products also have less sodium and more protein.

The new products go on sale in the U.S. this spring.

Beyond Meat has updated its products before; this is the fourth generation of the Beyond Burger. But Beyond Meat Founder and CEO Ethan Brown said this is the biggest leap forward the brand has made since the Beyond Burger went on sale in 2016.

Brown said the company spent years developing the new recipe with input from nutritionists and doctors, trying to provide the benefits of plant-based eating in a burger that mimics the taste and texture of animal meat.

"Health is one of the top drivers to the plant-based meat category, and we feel a deep responsibility to deliver on that expectation for the consumer," Brown told The Associated Press.

Beyond Meat is also under pressure to reverse declining U.S. sales. In the first nine months of 2023, the company's U.S. revenue dropped 34% on weak consumer demand. The company said in November it was cutting 19% of its workforce and considering cutting some products, like jerky, and reducing its operations in China.

U.S. consumers' doubts about the health of plant-based meat – fed partly by advertising from the meat industry – has been a consistent problem. The outgoing Beyond Burger contains 25% of the recommended daily intake of saturated fat, for example, and 17% of the recommended intake of sodium.

The new Beyond Burger significantly improves that health profile. It has 10% of the recommended intake of saturated fat and 14% of the recommended intake of sodium. A single patty has 230 calories, which is the same as the outgoing burger. For comparison, a Kroger-brand 80/20 beef patty has 290 calories.

Beyond Meat – which has always used pea protein in its burgers -- also added protein from lentils, rice and faba beans to the new burger to improve chewiness and boost the protein. The burgers now have 21 grams of protein, compared to 19 grams of protein in 80/20 beef patties.

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