CEO of Beyond Meat on Why They Refuse to Use GMOs in Their Products

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The protein space is rapidly evolving as more and more consumers are choosing to leave meat off their plates in favor of plant-based alternatives. Seeing a massive opportunity in the meat alternative market, which is projected to be worth $5.2 billion by 2020, countless startups and innovative companies have come onto the scene to try and create the “meat” of the future. Beyond Meat is one of these companies and in a recent episode of the #EatForThePlanet with Nil Zacharias podcast, CEO Ethan Brown shares his plans for the company as they continue to expand and work to perfect their plant-based products.

For Ethan, creating the perfect replica of meat – a product that looks, smells, and tastes as similar to meat as possible – is the ultimate goal. Highly driven focus and focused on this mission, Ethan plans to roll out a new version of their products every year, improving on their taste and texture with each new release. So far their offerings include chicken-less strips, meat-free crumbles, the Beast Burger, and Beyond Burger – which is their newest product that is so close to a ground beef burger it is being sold in grocery store meat cases.

There is a lot of competition in the meat alternative space but Ethan is set on ensuring that Beyond Meat products are not only superior in taste, but also in terms of quality of ingredients. In the podcast episode, Ethan shares that Beyond Meat made a conscious choice not to use genetically modifying plants to create substances such as heme, the iron-rich compound that makes blood red, and they plan to keep no GMOs as a strict guardrail for their scientists. While other companies have employed plant-based heme as an agent to make their products turn from red to brown/gray when cooked, Ethan knows that transparency and consumer familiarity when it comes to ingredients are key.

“It’s very easy to fall in love with technology and its elegance, and forget about the consumer, and we don’t do that here,” Ethan said, “[The] consumer is in our face all the time because that’s where we want them. We don’t use, for example, heme. We don’t use things that may be better scaled up in the pharmaceutical setting than in the food industry.”

Ethan continued, “we had concerns on several fronts about [genetically modified heme], and so we are continuing to look at ways to utilize natural ingredients.”

People are looking for clean protein sources, in some cases that’s why they’re looking to replace meat, and having an ingredient list that is filled with GMOs, allergens, and chemicals that people don’t recognize is only going to turn people off meat alternatives. Similar logic was used when they decided to create a burger with pea protein instead of soy or wheat, due to consumer concerns about these ingredients.

He also talks about the unique challenges and innovations that come with pioneering the plant-based protein space and what new products they hope to roll out next.

Ethan is incredibly driven and hopes to help his team become the group that completely transforms the food system. To hear more about how he plans to do that – listen in!

You can listen to the full episode below or on the following platforms: iTunesGoogle PlayStitcher.

If you like this episode, be sure to subscribe to the #EatForThePlanet with Nil Zacharias podcast for new episodes with food industry leaders, health, and sustainability experts, as well as entrepreneurs and creative minds who are redefining the future of food.

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