The world’s largest meat producer is joining Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods in a race to win over the new plant-based protein consumers. Brazilian giant JBS has debuted its own range of plant-based burgers and chorizo alternatives this week.
The new line made from pea protein is branded Ozo. The products are developed in Planterra Foods, the new Colorado-based subsidiary of JBS.
“We’re not saying that meat is bad,” says Darcey Macken, CEO of Planterra Foods. “People getting their heads wrapped around plants can be for all different motivations, whether it’s about earth and sustainability or just not eating animals.”
JBS is not the first meat processor interested in plant-based foods. Tyson and Smithfield and Hormel started selling their plant-based products in 2019. Cargill announced it would launch its plant-based protein private-label this year. Tyson even invested in Beyond Meat in 2016 and sold its 6.5% stake before Beyond’s IPO.
It is a critical moment for plant-based foods. While traditional meat sales are declining due to the pandemic, the meat alternatives have seen increased demand, and the sales are soaring.
The supply issues related to Covid-19 caused a serious crisis in the meat industry. This week, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported an 11% increase for beef and veal prices in May, making it an opportunity for alternative protein producers to narrow the price gap.
This week Beyond reduced the price of its burgers. The company launched a cheaper value pack of its burgers for summer barbecue season.
The plant-based food companies are expanding to Asia where consumers became more interested in non-animal protein due to the coronavirus and the swine fever outbreaks in China. Beyond Meat will launch its burgers at selected locations of fast-food chains in mainland China, including KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell.
“Nobody knew how this would impact the industry as a whole,” Julie Emmett, senior director of retail partnerships at the Plant Based Foods Association told Forbes.
“Plant-based sales continue to grow so strongly after panic-buying—faster than total sales and faster than animal-based meat.”