Just when it seemed like more and more plant-based meat companies were popping up, JBS pulled the plug on Planterra Foods only two years after it made its retail debut. The plant-based meat brand has permanently ceased operations in Lafayette, Colorado, closing its manufacturing facility and laying off its entire staff consisting of approximately 120 employees.
Planterra Foods’ products were sold at retail in 2020 under the Ozo brand, which offered plant-based burger patties, grounds and meatballs. The products were formulated with pea and rice protein fermented by shiitake mushrooms. The next year, Planterra Foods expanded the brand to frozen foods with the introduction of burger patties, sausages, chicken patties and chicken nuggets.
In August 2021, the company opened its headquarters in Lafayette, which featured an innovation center and office space. In December 2021, the company opened a 189,000-square-foot manufacturing facility. However, Planterra Foods was not JBS’s only plant-based meat business. In April 2021, the company acquired Vivera, a European company with three manufacturing plants, for $410 million.
While all the major meat players including the likes of Cargill, Tyson and Maple Leaf Foods, have made moves into the plant-based meat category, JBS went all in with Planterra Foods, a stand-alone operation. With several competitors in the crowded space, the Ozo brand attempted to stand out by making its first products soy-free and contain less saturated fat and fewer calories than its rivals.
Despite this, Planterra Foods could not differentiate itself enough from competitors. It is not clear why JBS decided to terminate the business after only two years, but until recently, the brand had been attending trade shows and announcing new products and commercial partnerships through 2022. It even issued a press release on September 22 detailing collaborations with commercial operators.
The closure comes as the US plant-based meat category continues to struggle. A recent report from the Brightfield Group showed double-digit declines in many meat alternative segments during the second quarter of 2022, including plant-based sausages and fish (down 17 percent), burger alternatives (down seven percent) and chicken alternatives (down six percent).
JBS’s move to shut down Planterra Foods follows Maple Leaf Foods’ decision to reallocate some resources from its plant-based meat businesses, including Lightlife and Field Roast brands, back to conventional meat amid slowing sales. This doesn’t signal the end for the alternative meat business, but it does indicate that JBS and Maple Leaf Foods’ growth charts were too ambitious.
Prominent plant-based meat players including Beyond Meat, Gardein, Morningstar Farms and Quorn also experience flat or declining sales in the last few quarters. Recent sales figures have caused concern in some segments of the business, but many believe the sector will bounce back as retailers weed out the poor performers and the valuations of plant-based meat brands drop to more realistic figures.
Not to mention, a recent report from Facts and Factors valued the global plant-based meat market at around $7.5 billion in 2021 and estimated that it will reach $15.8 billion by 2028 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 15 percent. While Planterra Foods was another casualty in the billion-dollar business, many others will likely find more success in the years to come.