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If you can’t beat ‘em join ‘em. Is it time to join, or beat, the plant-based party?

If you believed the headlines, it would certainly seem as if the plant-based movement is taking over and that in very short order real meat will be a thing of the past.

Are we in a transition like from horse and buggy to automobiles?

I don’t think so. As I visit restaurants all week long on sales calls, I find relatively few plant-based products selling in any significant volume. Sure, sales may be up 200% at a particular restaurant from a year ago, or whatever the crazy high percentage may appear to be, but going from one case a week a year ago to three cases a week now is still a small number. One of my customers uses a few hundred cases of beef patties a week and just four or five of plant-based, which is still less than 2% of their burger sales. Their food cost on the plant-based burgers, even with a necessary upcharge, is terribly high at 38%. Compare that to their 23% food cost on real beef burgers.

Real beef burgers still pay the bills at all burger joints. And I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

Yet our sales of real meat will erode as plant-based products get cheaper and better. Which is why, if you haven’t already done so, you should start selling your own brand of plant-based products if you are a meat plant. Does that sound like shocking advice?

Think about it: Why let Impossible Burgers and Beyond Meat dominate this sales channel with their overly expensive products and meat-bashing marketing campaigns? We can offer better products and better prices, easily undercutting their profits, also undercutting their nefarious anti-meat agenda, all while complimenting conventional meat production.

Most restaurants selling Beyond or Impossible products add a whopping $3 to substitute a plant-based patty for a real beef patty. That’s about like charging more for a garden salad than for a real beef burger. Most won’t pay this crazy upcharge. Why does it cost the restaurant operator more to purchase a plant burger? It must be to cover the costs of marketing and all the investors that Impossible and Beyond must pay off.

It certainly doesn’t cost this much more to produce a plant-based product. I know, because I’ve been part of a team that’s developed an awesome plant-based product that you can produce in your own meat plant at very low cost.

As a meat plant, you likely already have all the machinery you need, except for a mixer, to make great plant-based burgers. All you need is some know-how and to find the right product mix. I’ve worked with a vegan chef to design a great product that you can be making in very short order in your own plant.

As a meat plant, you’ve got many advantages over the current leaders in the plant-based movement. For one, you already have established customers. Secondly, you can offer locally made products. Thirdly, your overhead is already paid for with the meat equipment you use in processing, so your plant-based products will be more competitive than those who start up only making plant-based products. They do have great brand presence with their impressive marketing budget and campaigns, but you can capitalize on the market they’ve paid to generate. By saving chefs $3 a pound or more by buying your plant-based burgers, you’ll be able to convince many to give up the currently well-known brands for your new brand.

We’ve seen that while it’s still a small percentage of the market, the plant-based channel is here to stay and is steadily gaining traction. Let’s strike back while the iron’s hot by now reclaiming that percentage as our own. If you need help getting started with making your own plant-based burgers, contact me by clicking on "email blog" at the top of this column.

No worries, I’m not about to give up my long career in the meat industry, nor should you. I’m just expanding in order to stave off the competition from every angle. You should too! Don’t think of it as joining with your competition; think of it as beating them at their own game!

Par Gregory Bloom (The Meat Business by Gregory Bloom) (22/04/2021)

Gregory Bloom shares over 26 years of industry experience working in six USDA inspected meat plants - buying and selling meat, working with chefs and restaurants and teaching COP classes. He is the CEO and owner of U.S. Protein.

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