Some weeks ago Carolina Rossi from NUTRITION HUB met with Seth Goldman who is the Executive Chairman at Beyond Meat. Founded in California in 2009, Beyond Meat produces plant-based meat substitutes consisting of pea protein isolates, canola and coconut oils, colouring from beet roots amongst others. The company sells its plant-based “meats” such as burger patties, sausages and “Beyond Beef Crumbles”, in the meat section of grocery stores in the US.
Seth Goldman, a Harvard and Yale graduate, founded the beverage company “Honest Tea” in 1998, which was later acquired by Coca Cola in 2011. Seth joined the company in 2015. Back then and today, the vision to inspire vegetarians, meat eaters, and flexitarians around the world to consume plant-based meat is still the core of his work.
How are you contributing to make people healthier?
We want people to move towards plant-based nutrition. Various authors of diet books recommend Keto or Paleo Diet... I am not an expert but to me it doesn’t make a long-term sense for people’s health to only eat meat. We believe and recommend to reduce meat consumption. This - in turn - will have an impact on the environment. A plant-based diet is one of the top-ranked solutions for a sustainable living suggested by the general body of environmental and scientific literature. So, from my point of view, having a dietary solution combined with a positive environmental impact is what makes our work at Beyond Meat even more exciting.
Who are your main customers?
We have two big customers we are mainly selling to in the United States: Grocery chains, in particular the meat departments, and restaurant chains. Outside the US we work with international distributors such as the PHW group in Germany.
How many people are working in your Research and Development Team and what is the background of these people?
We have 40 people working in the R&D Team and it is amazing. Most companies in our category were hiring culinary people, cooks for example, and asking them to make a better veggie burger. Then they tried black beans, quinoa or some special ingredients. For us, it was clear, that only working with chefs we would limit ourselves. We wanted to go a step further and decided to hire mixed teams of scientists: physicists, who look at what happens to the texture, what happens to the protein when we cook it, and how we do achieve this texture; chemists to look at colour transformations in order to understand how natural colours evolve when they are heated; and biologists to develop where we source our ingredients and what plants will be the right sources to achieve the result we want.
In a nutshell, there is a whole range of scientists and they graduated from the best universities - the scientists in our R&D team come from the best institutions from the United States and around the world. It really is an impressive team. Actually, and this is a fun fact, we call the place where our scientists do their work - which is in Manhattan Beach - the “Manhattan Beach Project” – in relation to the "Manhattan Project" during World War II.
What is the thing you are most proud of?
Well, the burger really is a breakthrough. But actually, there are three levels of breakthroughs: The first one really was developing the burger, the second was getting it to the grocery stores and especially in the meat section, and the third breakthrough is the consumer responding so well. Actually, the consumer is doing the marketing right now. We do have a marketing team but compared to the consumers our marketing efforts are very small on their impact. The consumer is really the driver in this and that is so exciting for us!
How do you deal with production and high demand?
Last summer was very frustrating: We had a real issue because consumers wanted the product and we did not have enough production capacity to meet the demand. But we made very aggressive investments in our supply chain, both our sourcing, our production facility and our team. Now, we feel much better about that.
How many facilities do you have?
We have multiple: we have one production facility where we do work to make the meat and then we bring that to several other facilities across the country. But we have the plan to eventually also take it to Europe.
Did you study nutrition and what is your relation to nutrition?
No, but I always have had a health focus. For example, when we launched Honest Tea in 1998, it was always low sugar for the benefit of taste and organic for the environmental benefit. It is disgraceful that, as the wealthiest country in the world, we have such a low life expectancy. That is just literally squandering your fortune and not living up to your potential. I am very aware of the fact that we can do better in terms of life expectancy so that’s the work that we can be doing. And of course, it also becomes a brilliant business opportunity, to take a country that is doing so poorly and make it healthier!
Here is the link to the company Beyond Meat: https://www.beyondmeat.com/