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Whole Foods CEO on plant-based meat boom: Good for the environment but not for your health

There are currently two main, buzzy players in the plant-based “meat” market: Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods.

In 2013, Whole Foods gave plant-based meat start-up Beyond Meat its first shot at selling its vegan “chicken” strips at Whole Foods locations across the country. Early believers and investors in the product were billionaires Bill Gates and Twitter co-founder Biz Stone.

“We launched Beyond Meat. We were their launching pad. In fact, I think all of their new products have been introduced at Whole Foods,” Whole Foods CEO and co-founder John Mackey tells CNBC Make It.

A year later, Beyond Meat developed its first “beef” product made from plant proteins, which later morphed into its now-famous Beyond Burger in 2016. (The company has since made recipe updates to its original beef patties. In June, Beyond Meat announced its new recipe uses a “blend of pea, mung bean and rice proteins.” )

That same year, another plant-based meat start-up, Impossible Foods, released its alternative to the beef burger made from soy-protein concentrate to restaurants. Momofuku Nishi in New York City began serving the Impossible Burger in July 2016. The company is also backed by Bill Gates.

Today, both Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods have exploded.

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.


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