It’s hard to miss the early days of the mass-market veggie burger, that bygone era when the veggie burgers you’d find in a grocery store were discs of mashed produce violently molded to resemble (if you squinted) something you’d stuff between two patties. It’s not exactly easy to parrot the texture and consistency of meat, after all. Introducing that kind of product to the mass market may be even tougher.
Thankfully, circumstances have changed considerably, and one of the few products to fulfill this directive has been the Beyond Burger. Initially conceived as a product that’d appeal to meat-eating skeptics and vegetarians/vegans alike, it’s a coleslaw of pea protein, yeast extract, and coconut oil. The burger is reddened by the presence of beet juice, giving it the appearance of a medium-rare burger. Its asking price is $5.99 for two four-ounce patties.
Last week, Beyond Meat, the startup that manufactures the burger, announced that it’d be tripling the distribution of its flagship product by introducing it into 600 Kroger stores in 13 states. It’s by far a more ambitious and wide-reaching plan than any other the company has had. The Beyond Burger is currently in roughly 350 Whole Foods and 280 Safeway locations. Russ Richardson, Kroger’s vice president of meat and seafood, reached out to the company after reading about it in a trade publication. He was compelled to partner with Beyond Meat after recognizing that there's increasing demand for products that'll minimize the negative health or environmental impacts of meat burgers.
Consider this a development of little consequence, but the fact that Kroger—which, I should remind you, holds the title for being America’s most beloved grocery store chain—has now become Beyond Beef’s largest stockist feels significant. It signals a positive shift in the faith American grocers are putting into plant-based diets. The Beyond Burger's biggest adversary is probably the much-hyped Impossible Burger, which semi-famously left David Chang flabbergasted last April, in awe of the veggie burger that bleeds.
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“I think it might change the whole game,” Chang surmised of the Impossible Burger. Impossible Foods, the manufacturer of the Impossible Burger, just raised a $75 million round in funding at the end of last week. Who will win out? Well, I hope there’s room for both Beyond Meat and the Impossible Burger in our grocery stores. I’d like to imagine a world wherein I’m surrounded by globs of bleeding plants, sandwiched by hooked buns.
Mayukh Sen is a James Beard Award-winning food and culture writer in New York. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the New Yorker, Bon Appetit, and elsewhere. He won a 2018 James Beard Award in Journalism for his profile of Princess Pamela published on Food52.