Because the Nestle "triple play" burger offers not only a plant-based patty, but also plant-based "bacon" and cheese too, it dramatically expands the addressable market for such beef alternatives and opens up the opportunity for the global food company to extend its reach.
A cattle car of competitors
The market for plant-based meat alternatives is getting crowded and much more competitive. Beyond Meat and industry peer Impossible Burger led the way in the U.S. through partnerships with various restaurant chains, and introduced their burgers and ground beef substitutes into supermarkets -- but larger, better-financed food companies took notice and are now moving in.
In addition to Nestle, ConAgra Brands, Hormel Foods, Kellogg, and Tyson Foods (NYSE:TSN) all have introduced or are about to introduce plant-based alternatives to meat, and supermarket giant Kroger says it will offer a beef alternative under the Simple Truth brand. Walmart also announced it will be partnering with China's first plant-based meat producer, Qishan Foods, to develop alternatives for the Chinese market, so it might not take long for those to make it to the U.S.
Smaller companies are also coming to market offering alternatives to meat that aren't just burgers. Field Roast makes a complete line of plant-based sausages, franks, "roasts," and more, and Tyson has invested in a company that's making plant-based "shrimp."
The obvious commonality among these competitors is their size. These are giant food companies with extensive experience in consumer goods that easily dwarf Beyond Meat's capabilities. Although the fake-meat maker has rocketed to a $7 billion market value, following its initial public offering earlier this year and triple-digit sales growth, trailing revenue still totals just $165 million.
At $41 billion in annual revenue, Tyson generates nearly five times Beyond Meat's revenue in a week, although little or none of Tyson's yet comes from plant-based alternatives. But Tyson is immensely profitable, generating net income of over $2 billion over the last 12 months, meaning it has the wherewithal to bury Beyond Meat should it choose to.
Similarly, adding the international heavyweight Nestle means there will be more choices for consumers. In announcing Nestle's PB Triple Play offering, CEO Mark Schneider said: "More and more consumers are looking for delicious, nutritious and sustainable plant-based options when they dine out. We have now raised the bar by developing a 'PB triple play' of ingredients for an all-time classic: the bacon cheeseburger."
The complete package
The Nestle sandwich consists of its Sweet Earth Foods Awesome Burger, which was introduced last month and is made with U.S.-sourced yellow pea protein. It is topped with vegan cheddar cheese that reportedly has the text of and melts just like dairy-based cheese, while the bacon becomes crispy and chewy when cooked, similar to animal-based bacon.
Taste will always be important, and Beyond Meat's burger reportedly excels in that category. There are undoubtedly limitations to just how big the market is for plant-based alternatives. But being able to offer food service companies and consumers a complete sandwich, not just a basic faux-beef patty, gives Nestle an advantage -- one that even with early-mover status, Beyond Meat will find difficult to overcome.