Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Beyond Meat Ethan Brown discussed the evolution of plant-based burgers with Verge editor-in-chief Nilay Patel just days before the product was upgraded.
The interview discusses Beyond Meat's mission to create a more sustainable food system.The InterviewPatel notes that Beyond Meat's Beyond Burger is already out in grocery stories and the company also has a burger at Carl's Junior. Patel asked the company had different processes for the grocery store versus the fast food outlets.Brown wants to produce a better productBrown claimed that the most challenging job was not production and operations but to improve the product. He was pleased that the present product was available and people were buying it but he was not satisfied and felt he had a better product. The company has what it says is a relentless and rapid innovation program. They try to make the product you just bought obsolete as quick as they can and replace it with a better product. The new burger they hope to release in the summer they believe will be much better than the existing one.The aim is to produce the perfect piece of meat but based upon plant protein.Present burgers do not taste exactly like meat and that concerns the companyBrown said he did not like the aroma of his burger as much as he thought he should although it is close to that of animal protein in some ways. Brown claims there are over a thousand molecules involved that make meat taste and smell the way people are accustomed to. The company is trying to isolate them and find similar features in plants so that the burger will taste more like meat. While Brown said the company had not yet reached its goal the new burger was closer.The present burger stays red when cookedBrown was also a bit worried about the color change to the burger. The burger was still relatively red when cooked. Customers who have used the burger get used to it but Brown worries that those new to the burger will try to cook the color out and thus overcook the burger. Brown would like the color transition to be more like that when cooking meat.Fat distributionFinally Brown was concerned to distribute the fat as in meat so that when you bit into the burger the fat is well interwoven so that when you bite into it is like biting into a burger made of meat.Why have burgers that taste and smell exactly like meat burgers?Patel asks: " You are describing how to replace meat. Making it so that your expectations of cooking and eating a Beyond Meat Burger are exactly the same as your expectations of a hamburger patty. Is that the right goal? Is it that people need hamburgers that are exactly like hamburgers of the past or is it we have to change our food supply?"Brown's response is to note that most consumers love meat Around 94 percent of Americans like and eat meat. What Brown wants to prove is that you can produce a plant based protein that tastes and smells exactly like meat.Once he has done that Brown says he will have the freedom to experiment beyond that. Most hope and dream that they can continue to go on loving and consuming meat. Brown's aim is to show that this can be plant based.Beyond MeatThe company has received venture funding through several companies including Kleiner Prekins Caulfield and Byers, Tyson Foods, Bill Gates, and the Humane Society. Meat can now also be grown in the lab rather than on beef farms as shown on the appended image.
Previously published in the Digital Journal