Beyond Meat launches chicken tenders in US foodservice

6 Aug 2021

Beyond Meat now serves plant-based chicken nuggets at over 400 foodservice retail outlets in the United States. Its nuggets are made with a fava bean and pea protein base that the plant-based protein titan says customers consider to be on par with real chicken in terms of texture, juiciness, taste and crispiness.

Although Beyond Meat is known for its ubiquitous Beyond Burger, the company was dabbling in chicken before beef ever became a part of its menu. In 2012, the California food tech giant launched Beyond Chicken Strips and sold them in retail until 2019 when it quietly discontinued the line in order to improve the product.

Beyond Meat launches chicken tenders in US foodservice
Courtesy of Beyond Meat

Beyond Meat is known for iterative improvements of its plant-based creations. Its flagship Beyond Burger is now on its third iteration, which the company described in a press release earlier this year as its “meatiest, juiciest burger yet.” Soon, this well-known grocery store staple will be complemented by a second burger variation that will have an even more enviable nutritional profile, including a reduction in saturated fat content to 55%.

However, although it has taken a backseat to burgers in recent years, developing a plant-based chicken product has continued to be a focus for Beyond Meat. Chicken consumption in the U.S. is growing and the poultry protein is now Americans’ preferred meat product. According to the National Chicken Council, the average American ate 97.6 pounds of chicken in 2020. Globally, the trend of increased chicken consumption also exists, and chicken is expected to be the growth leader within the meat segment through 2030, data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations show.

Plant-based chicken is no different. SPINS data show that plant-based chicken is growing at a rate of 18%, which is over four times the growth experienced for its animal-based equivalent.

With such rapid growth in a category that is attracting droves of hungry consumers, it’s no surprise that Beyond Meat wants to get back into the game with a reformulated chicken product. Rather than using soy as it did in its former chicken strips offering, Beyond Meat’s R&D team shifted to fava bean protein to create a breaded nugget with 14 grams of protein and 40% less saturated fat than the leading meat-based foodservice chicken tender per serving.

Its new nuggets, which are not the same as those trialed at KFC locations over the last few years, are not just better in terms of flavor but they also have environmental advantages. The choice of fava beans was strategic on the part of Beyond Meat. Fava beans are a sustainable crop that adds nutrients, including nitrogen to the soil where it's grown, according to a report from the University of Cambridge.

These nuggets from Beyond Meat are part of a larger trend toward plant-based chicken alternatives. Rival Impossible Foods has also announced via reports in Bloomberg that it is only a few months behind Beyond Meat and will launch its own plant-based chicken nuggets this fall and Alpha Foods is taking advantage of skyrocketing chicken prices to convert more consumers to try its own plant-based nuggets.

Read about Alpha Foods here

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