Case Studies: Plant-Based Burgers

Goals

To provide best practices that describe the best ways to manufacture plant-based burgers based on the practices implemented by Impossible Foods and Beyond Burger.

Early Findings

Impossible Foods

  • Impossible Foods uses soybeans that have been texturized as the base for their meatless burgers. This ingredient provides protein while also emulating the chew and texture of real meat.
  • Other ingredients include water, potato protein mixed with other nutrients (the nutrients provide nutrients and flavor while the potato protein acts as a binder that gels up while cooking and helps retain moisture in the patty), leghemoglobin from plants (in the cooking process this reacts with the nutrients in the potato protein mixture and helps create the taste of meat), sunflower oil (for fat and fiber and to act as a binder)
  • During the production process, all the ingredients go into a giant food mixer/grinder and comes out looking just like ground beef.
  • The rest of the production process works just like any other meat/burger factory which essentially forms the meat into patties or brick shapes and then freezes and packages it.
  • Perhaps the most integral part of Impossible's burger production process is the creation of the 'hem' (leghemoglobin). This is produced onsite and uses a process that incorporates a fermentation process. The yeast created in the fermentation process creates the hem. Impossible Foods has a whole lab dedicated to perfecting this process, as the company has found that the quality of the hem is affected by numerous variables, including the specific strain of yeast used in the process.

Beyond Burger

  • According to Beyond Meat's CEO, Ethan Brown, the company thinks about meat in terms of its composition: amino acids, lipids, trace minerals, vitamins, and water. The company then assembles these elements "in the architecture of animal protein."
  • Ethan Brown feels the company is 70-80% there in terms of being able to create a product that 100% mimics real meat. He notes that the company is now focusing more on flavor and feels their most recent interation of the product much more closely mimics the flavor of animal protein, as well as the aroma.
  • Because animal protein consists of over 1,000 different molecules, Brown says that essentially what the company does is isolate the molecules, identify their characteristics, and then find matching molecules from plants. He states that this process of discovery gets the company closer to an animal protein equivalent.

Results of Findings

  • We were unable to locate articles written by experts which layout industry best practices for plant-based burger manufacturing. This is likely because this is a very niche industry.
  • However, we were able to locate insights which describe the specific production processes of major players (Impossible Foods and Beyond Burger), which make it clear what the company's top priorities are in terms of how they develop and produce their product.

Proposed next steps:

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