Hormel partners with The Better Meat Co. to develop meat analog products

Dive Brief:

  • Hormel’s venture arm, 199 Ventures, entered into an exclusive partnership with fermented meat analog maker The Better Meat Co. to develop new meat alternative products and bring them to market.
  • The two companies will work together to create new products using Better Meat’s Rhiza mycelium-based meat analog. Better Meat CEO Paul Shapiro said the partnership will focus on developing products that can be commercially produced. There is a financial component to the agreement, but Shapiro would not provide any details.
  • This is the latest partnership between a legacy food company and an alternative protein maker. PepsiCo began a partnership with plant-based meat maker Beyond Meat to develop, produce and market products in January. In July, Nestlé entered into a similar agreement with cell-based meat company Future Meat Technologies.

Dive Insight:

With rising sales, new product prototypes and venture capital pouring into alternative protein companies, it makes sense that Big Food wants to get into the space.

Even though Better Meat has no fermented meat analog products on the market yet, this agreement gives the upstart a new degree of acceptance. Hormel has a large portfolio of products, but the company is best known for its bacon, pepperoni, deli meat and turkey brands. Any meat analog maker it would partner with needs to make products that can meet the company’s standards — especially since 98% of consumers who buy meat alternatives also purchase meat, according to a 2019 Nielsen study.

Hormel has been in the alternative protein space since 2019, when it debuted its Happy Little Plants brand of plant-based meat and pizza toppings and started offering ground meat products blended with plant protein or mushrooms. Shapiro said Better Meat, which became known for its plant-based meat enhancement ingredients, had a previous working relationship with Hormel. He declined to provide more details.

This is Hormel’s first outside partnership with a company in the alternative protein space. 

Bryan Kreske, general manager of Hormel’s 199 Ventures, said on a panel at last month’s virtual Good Food Conference that the company was open to this sort of partnership. While Hormel and other companies have been working internally on developing their own meat alternatives, Kreske said Big Food needs to have the humility to understand there are emerging companies in the space with valuable technologies.

“I think the key enabler to expanding that access is for companies like Hormel and others in the meat industry to partner with those companies to help bring these great-tasting plant-based products to the marketplace,” he said.

While there is a growing number of companies making meat analogs through fermentation, most of them do not have products in the marketplace. Quorn, a pioneer in alternative protein that has had products for more than three decades, is the only brand of meat analog made this way that is widely available in the U.S. Due to a limited familiarity with fermented meat analogs, this agreement with Hormel can help Better Meat and other companies in this space more easily pass the hurdle of initial consumer acceptance.

Better Meat unveiled its Rhiza mycoprotein line and manufacturing facility — all developed under stealth during the previous three years — in June. Rhiza, which is made from potato and sorghum inputs, has a meatier texture than plant-based analogs, more protein than eggs and more iron than beef, according to the company. The Plant Based Seafood Co. had previously announced it would use Rhiza in its plant-based crab cakes and other meat-free seafood, while Sacramento, California, steakhouse Bennett’s American Cooking served Rhiza steaks for a day in August.

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