Soy-based products mimicking the texture and flavor of meat—even going so far as to "bleed"—are a booming business and traditional meat companies want a piece. Yesterday, Tyson Foods Inc., known primarily as a chicken producer, bought a small stake in Beyond Meat, which makes the plant-based "Beyond Burger" in addition to other vegan faux meat products.
The Los Angeles Times reports that Tyson bought a 5% share in the company, whose products are distributed in over 7,500 stores across the United States. "I'm pleased to welcome Tyson as an investor and look forward to leveraging this support to broaden availability of plant protein choices to consumers," Beyond Meat founder Ethan Brown said in a statement.
While this small stake means Beyond Meat remains predominantly independent, it could equal a big new market for the California-based company with a name like Tyson behind it. For Tyson, it's an opportunity to cash in on a market that's seeing a big boost as consumers shift their diets to include less meat—at least in major cities. The Plant Based Foods Association noted $4.9 billion in sales for its members from 2015-2016.
And apparently, watching the sausage get made looks the same whether it's meat or soy: "The similarity between what we were doing and they were doing in making sausage was eye-opening," Brown says of a visit to Hillshire, which is owned by Tyson. “It could have easily been our fat and our protein moving through that system with little distinction that a consumer would see."