In the battle to create the best plant-based burger, Beyond Meat just fired a shot. The company has reformulated its Beyond Burger, making it meatier and better looking, with “marbling” to emulate the fat in traditional burgers. The new formulation is rolling out to grocery stores this week.
Beyond, like its competitor, the Impossible Burger, had previously engineered a burger that “bleeds” — it has beet juice that gives the alternative protein the characteristic pink of a ground beef burger. Both burgers were a breakthrough in the fake meat world, where previous veggie burgers were derided as tasteless pucks. If the goal is to get humans to eat less meat — for their health and the health of the planet — making a burger that simulates the taste and texture of meat is critical in winning converts.
A marbled plant-based burger is a step further in that direction. Where do those white fatty flecks come from? The company has added bits of coconut oil and cocoa butter, which melt into the burger when it’s grilled, and give it a juicier flavor. It has also added mung bean and rice proteins to the formula, which also includes pea protein. The additions give the burger more fiber and protein. It also has a “more neutral flavor and aroma profile,” according to a news release; some buyers had previously complained that the burger had a foul odor when cooked. The burger still has the beet juice, but it’s less pink on the inside, and it turns browner when it cooks — a change made possible by an apple extract.
We tried the burger, and agreed: It tastes meatier, with more umami flavor. But even more striking was the texture: It had a coarser texture that was closer to ground beef. And the melting flecks of coconut oil and cocoa butter, created little pockets throughout the burger that made it less dry, dense and puck-like compared with the previous iteration, especially when the two were sampled side-by-side. The company will also sell packaged ground “beef,” which is made from the same formula, meaning you can hand-form your own burgers or make other dishes that would traditionally call for ground beef.
Beyond Meat went public at the beginning of May, and its stock has had ups and downs since then. But since its $25 IPO, shares have risen to $165, giving it one of the most successful IPOs of the year.
Restaurants are incorporating the new Beyond Burger into their menus. Ours was cooked by chef Ype Von Hengst, co-founder of the Silver Diner, who uses it for burgers and meatballs, and he’s experimenting with a vegan meatloaf. The product can also be found in national chains, including Tim Horton’s and Del Taco. Unlike its competitor, the Impossible Burger — which recently made a splash on the Burger King menu — the Beyond Burger can be purchased in grocery stores. Impossible Burgers are offered only in restaurants, for now.
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