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Battle of the burgers: The ‘bleeding’ meat-free burger has gone mainstream


The burger sector has been raging a war in the US for decades. But now, it seems, it has put aside its in-fighting to turn against a common enemy: plant-based meat alternatives.

DANIEL SELWOOD: Hamburgers can be a vicious business. Don’t believe it? Just look at the burger wars that have been raging in the US for decades… But now, it seems, the burger sector has put aside its in-fighting to turn against a common enemy: plant-based meat alternatives.

Angry shots were fired in February, when the Center for Consumer Freedom, a lobby group funded in part by the meat and fast food industries, ran an attack ad during the Super Bowl. The TV slot pointed out that plant-based meat alternatives contain the “chemical laxative” methylcellulose. “Fake bacon and burgers can have dozens of chemical ingredients,” CCF said. “If you can’t spell it or pronounce it, maybe you shouldn’t be eating it.”

No wonder it’s feeling threatened. Meat alternatives are booming in the US, with commentators expecting the market to reach as much as $30m by 2026. In the UK, the story is much the same. In January, Mintel reported: “Such is the popularity of meat-free food that sales are expected to be in excess of £1.1bn by 2024.”

That popularity is underlined by the recent sales figures across grocery. During lockdown, the meat-free category has shot up by 18.4% to £134.5m… And burgers have outpaced the market 37% growth – thanks in part to spells of barbecue weather and Brits’ desire to recreate meals from their favourite gastropubs.

So, to what extent are plant-based burgers gaining ground? Which brands are winning in this new landscape? And how are the plant-based brands battling each other?… The fastest-growing in percentage terms was Beyond Meat, with a 258.3% gain. Granted, that’s from a much smaller base than some of its larger counterparts. But it’s indicative of the success of its trademark ‘bleeding’ burger, hailed as the next generation of plant-based when it hit the UK in 2018.

Having gained listings in Tesco, Ocado and Holland & Barrett, Beyond now has its eye on other retailers. The brand attributes its lockdown gains to “opportunistic tactical changes to our strategy to take advantage of increased demand and emerging opportunities, including aggressively increasing promotional activity to drive greater consumer trial”. SOURCE…


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