If you were paying attention to the financial headlines during the first week of May, you probably expected that a trade war with China — an idea resurrected with a tweet from President Trump — would wreak havoc on the stock market. That turned out to be mostly true, but there was one brand that defied the downward spiral: Beyond Meat was the best performing first-day IPO in nearly two decades.
The company makes plant-based “meat” products that are sold in the meat cases of Whole Foods and Safeway and featured TGI Friday’s menus. The rest of the stock market was tumbling, but Beyond Meat was surging as investors raced to scoop up shares and cash in as more consumers make the shift away from meat-heavy diets.
The key word there is shift — not trend. Alternative meat looks like it’s going to be a standard choice. As more hungry diners look beyond — pun intended — traditional burgers, Alexia Howard, an analyst at Bernstein, estimated that the entire alternative-meat market could be worth more than $40 billion in the U.S. within 10 years. Beyond may be making headlines now, but Impossible Foods, maker of the Impossible Burger, is partnering with Burger King to sell Impossible Whoppers throughout the U.S., and McDonald’s announced plans to test a vegan burger in Germany. Nestlé is rumored to be gearing up for the release of its Incredible Burger, and Tyson is working on meat-alternative products, too. Even Ikea — yes, Ikea — wants to put its name on the meatless map.
Will Meetings Move Beyond Meat?
What does all this mean for F&B planning at meetings and events? As more people savor the flavors of dishes that look like beef at home and at their favorite restaurants, they’ll likely expect similar options on the table in ballrooms and exhibit halls. Beef isn’t going to completely disappear. According to statistics from GlobalData, only 6 percent of the U.S. population identified as vegan in 2017. However, that is a significant jump from 2014, when just 1 percent lived on plant-based diets. And according to Mintel’s Food and Drink Trends 2018 study, 33 percent of U.S. consumers planned to buy more plant-based food products.
While burgers — meat-based or otherwise — are not a part of formal dinners, there are products in the
works that could replace traditional beef-based menu items, like a plant-based steak. “The next categorically new product that we’ll launch is almost certainly going to be like a beef steak,” Pat Brown, CEO of Impossible Foods, said in a recent interview with The Spoon. “It has huge symbolic value. If we can make an awesomely delicious, world-class steak, it will be very disruptive not just to the beef industry, but to other sectors of the meat industry.”
Substituting meat is no doubt better for the entire planet, but not necessarily an event F&B budget. Most of these products are more expensive than standard, farm-produced beef ingredients. For now, budgets seem like they’ll keep most meeting diets restricted to regular beef. There are exceptions, though. Learn how Kimberly Smith of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability worked with a convention center catering team to leave meat off the menu.