Everyone has to start somewhere and, according to Whole Foods CEO, the latest fake-meat phenom, Beyond Meat, got its first shot by selling vegan chicken strips at Whole Foods markets across the country, according to a CNBC report.
“We launched Beyond Meat. We were their launching pad. In fact, I think all of their new products have been introduced at Whole Foods,” John Mackey, co-founder and CEO of Whole Foods, told CNBC Make It.
Beyond Meat, along with Impossible Foods have become the juggernauts of the fake meat industry.
In May, Beyond Meat had the best IPO so far in 2019, surging more than 163% on the day of its market debut, in addition to making big deals with Carl’s Jr., Dunkin, Del Taco and TGI Friday’s to name a few. And Impossible Foods products are now in about 10,000 restaurants — including White Castle, Red Robin and Burger King — with plans to launch in grocery stores in September, said the CNBC report.
The first irony is that Mackey, a vegan for more than 20 years and whose stores helped launch the fake meat industry, says he isn’t sold on the health benefits of plant-based meats.
According to Mackey: “Some of these that are extremely popular now that are taking the world by storm, if you look at the ingredients, they are super, highly processed foods.”
He is right. Ingredients for the Beyond Meat plant-based patties include water, pea protein isolate, expeller-pressed canola oil, refined coconut oil, rice protein and other natural flavors, including apple extract and beet juice extract (for color).
Ingredients for Impossible Foods burger include water, soy protein concentrate, coconut oil, sunflower oil, potato protein, soy leghemoglobin (a group of protein found in animals and plants) and other natural flavors, said the article.
“I don’t think eating highly processed foods is healthy. I think people thrive on eating whole foods,” Mackey says. “As for health, I will not endorse that, and that is about as big of criticism that I will do in public.”
The second irony is that Whole Foods markets, a company whose CEO is an avowed vegan, has been the object of some serious protests by animal rights groups. In recent years, the market has been harassed by both Direct Action Now (DxE) and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).
In the case of DxE, “their very public targeting of Whole Foods goes back at least three years: In 2015, the activist group released a 19-minute video featuring footage of chickens at a farm that supplied eggs to Whole Foods, alleging inhumane treatment. The video garnered major media coverage, though industry experts consulted by the New York Times did not seem to think the video footage was evidence of systemic animal cruelty,” according to an article in Eater.com, a “foodie” newsletter.
More recently, DxE’s plans to conduct a week-long protest at the Berkley Whole Foods was thwarted when a judge granted the store a restraining order forbidding members of the animal rights group from stepping onto the company’s Berkley property. The harassment of the store and its customers has been a continual disturbance.
Whole Foods provided the following statement: “DxE members have repeatedly entered our stores and property to conduct demonstrations that disrupt customers and team members by blocking access to our aisles, departments, and cash registers, interfering with our business and putting the safety of both customers and team members at risk.”
Whole Foods CEO Mackey may want to revise an old saying to “keep your enemies close, but your ‘friends’ (i.e. animal rights activists) closer.”