The breaded chicken category has been increasingly popular, especially within the unofficial “chicken sandwich wars.” However, the plant-based chicken category has not hit the mainstream market until now. Beyond Meat has introduced Beyond Chicken Tenders to restaurants nationwide in the US.
Beyond Chicken Tenders are made to look and taste like traditional meat-based chicken tenders. They are breaded, tender and great for a quick snack or even a lunchtime meal. Additionally, per serving, they have 14 grams of protein, made mostly of fava bean, and have 40 percent less saturated fat than other tenders on the market. The plant-based tenders are free of GMOs, antibiotics, and hormones.
“Creating the texture of the bite you have that releases the flavor, the juices and the fat — that was very challenging,” Dariush Ajami, Beyond’s chief innovation officer, told Forbes. “They came up with ways to package the ingredients to resemble the fatty, juicy mouthfeel of a real chicken tender.”
This isn’t the first time Beyond Meat has introduced plant-based chicken to market, but it is the first time they’ve used this new recipe. The unique formulation is a result of more than ten years of R&D.
“Our scientists have a very good understanding of animal product at the molecular level. But also, the product that we have, we understand the gap between the two. Through the process that we have…Beyond Meat has relentless innovation, and we try to close that gap,” said Ajami.
In 2012, Beyond Meat introduced a breaded chicken that was then taken out of the market in 2019. These were the company’s first chicken strips and they were discontinued, according to their FAQ page, because “Unfortunately, our Chicken Strips weren’t delivering the same plant-based meat experience as some of our more popular products.”
The original formula was made of soy powder, gluten-free flour, carrot fiber and other ingredients created over 20 years by professors Harold Huff and Fu-Hung Hsieh from the University of Missouri.
Beyond Meat are also not the first company to enter the plant-based breaded chicken market. In late 2020, McDonald’s introduced McPlant to their menus, which was also a long time coming. This featured substitutes in breakfast sandwiches and other menu offerings.
Additionally, KFC is the first fast-food chain to create lab-produced chicken nuggets. It is not vegetarian, technically, but it is different than other meats substitutes because it includes actual chicken cells.
Another company in this space, Simulate, is an American nutrition technology company that is the producer of NUGGS, a plant-based chicken nugget made with pea protein. McCain, an investor in this company, has been interested in the plant-based chicken industry for a while.
“At McCain, we believe NUGGS has developed an incredible product that uses plant-based technology to uniquely simulate a high-quality chicken nugget. A significant factor in achieving this is their approach to fast and iterative innovation, which is based on constant consumer feedback. We believe the combination of the NUGGS approach and McCain’s production and commercial expertise will accelerate the brand’s growth and deliver market scale,” said Mauro Pennella, chief growth officer at McCain Foods, in 2019.
In other words, it seems as though the chicken industry is growing and increasing in popularity in the meat-based, but also the plant-based, industries. There is increasing competition in the vegan chicken market and those include significant competitors such as Quorn Foods, Gardein Protein and Boca Foods Company. Nevertheless, Beyond Meat holds a tremendous upper hand because of their other popular plant-based meat options that are available nationwide.