Beyond Meat Inc. will bring some of its production to Canada next year as the company seeks to aggressively expand in this market.
The company that peddles imitation burgers, sausages and other meat alternatives says that Canada has grown to be its second-largest market outside of the United States, out of more than 50 countries where it currently sells its products. In 2020, Canada will be a strategic focus, founder and chief executive Ethan Brown said in an interview on Wednesday.
“It’s a very progressive market for us. The consumer is moving very quickly toward a flexitarian diet, where there’s an increasing number of meals per week that are based on non-animal sources,” Mr. Brown said. “We want to commit to the Canadian consumer in a way that’s more powerful than we have to date. And we’ll do that in 2020.”
The partnership with the as-yet-unnamed Canadian company will mean that Beyond Meat products that are to be sold in Canada will be formed and packaged at a facility outside Montreal. The company’s products get their protein from pulses such as peas and mung beans – the processing of those pulses still occurs at Beyond Meat facilities in the U.S., and the resulting material will be sent to Canada for mixing, forming into products, and packaging. Over time, the company could move the earlier stages of production to Canada as well, but Mr. Brown did not provide a timeline for that.
“You’ll see us continue to put production in the markets where the consumers are responding to our products,” he said.
The company is also planning to introduce Beyond Beef, an imitation ground beef, in grocery stores in Canada. Beyond Meat has been selling its burger patties in grocery stores in Canada since the summer, and is now distributed in more than 4,000 stores. On a global basis, roughly 50 per cent of the company’s sales come from retail stores, while the other half is from food service such as fast-food restaurants.
But choosing those Beyond Meat patties at the meat counter is not cheap: They can sell for around $8 for two patties, something that Mr. Brown said he wants to change by growing big enough to find economies of scale.
“We’re going to be able to under-price animal protein sooner than everybody thinks,” he said, citing a partnership with Dunkin’ Donuts in the U.S. where the Beyond Meat breakfast sandwich is selling for the same price as its meat equivalent.
Mr. Brown is also hoping to expand food-service partnerships. In September, McDonald’s Corp. announced it would test a Beyond Meat burger in 28 restaurants in Southern Ontario. That test is continuing.
“We’re not allowed to comment on the actual test results, but I feel very confident that we’ll continue to grow with McDonald’s and continue to pursue additional markets," Mr. Brown said. "But it’s really up to them.”
Also in September, Tim Hortons said it would remove Beyond Meat breakfast sandwiches from its menus except in British Columbia and Ontario. Mr. Brown said that he was not disappointed with the results, pointing out that more than half of Tim Hortons’ Canadian locations are in the two provinces that continue to sell the breakfast sandwich.
Going forward, Beyond Meat plans to increase its marketing efforts in Canada, including working with Canadian “influencers” and athletes to push the message that plant-based foods are healthier than meat. Imitation-meat products are still highly processed, and often contain high levels of salt and fat. Mr. Brown said that the company is focusing on developing its recipes so that the product is “indistinguishable” from meat and on improving nutrition.
Mr. Brown said he also wants to push the message that meat alternatives use less land, water and energy to consumers who are increasingly focused on the consequences of climate change.
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