Beyond Meat's Secret Innovation Lab Fuels the Plant-Based Revolution
Behind Beyond Meat’s incredible growth is an under-the-radar research facility where dozens of scientists rigorously analyze and recreate meat down to the molecular level using only plants.
Beyond Meat has rapidly become a revolutionary force as the plant-based alternative to meat rises in popularity worldwide. Founded in 2009, Beyond Meat produces burgers, sausages, meatballs and other products from simple, non-GMO plant proteins. Their goal? To perfectly recreate the texture, aroma and satisfaction of meat from sustainable veggie sources.
The El Segundo, California company was the brainchild of CEO Ethan Brown who wanted to combine his passions for nutrition, sustainability and animal welfare into one solution. When the first Beyond Burgers launched in grocery stores in 2016, they flew off the shelves in the meat case, striking a chord with mainstream consumers.
From there, Beyond Meat’s popularity exploded as more people fell in love with its meaty flavor and texture from peas, mung beans and rice. Global food giants like McDonald’s, KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell started adding Beyond Meat options, instantly introducing plant-based protein to millions.
In 2019, Beyond Meat became one of the most successful IPOs of the decade, valuing the 10-year-old company at $1.5 billion on its first day of public trading. Revenues tripled from $87 million in 2018 to $297 million in 2019 as demand surged. And Beyond Meat aimed bigger, expanding across retail aisles into meat, produce, and dairy sections while increasing global presence in 80 countries.
But Beyond Meat’s most valuable asset in achieving this remarkable growth is not its manufacturing facilities or marketing efforts: it’s the company’s top secret innovation lab. At their research center in Los Angeles, dozens of scientists rigorously analyze animal proteins to determine how to rebuild meat from plant parts.
This covert food lab has propelled Beyond Meat’s meteoric rise to dominance in just over a decade. After taste-testing early versions of the Beyond Burger in 2014, executive chefs said even they couldn’t distinguish it from beef. The results were so realistically meaty that fast food chains came flocking soon after.
From a food science perspective, perfectly replicating meat’s sensory profile is mind-bogglingly complex. Beyond Meat’s team combines chemistry, biology, material science, nutrition, and engineering. Their goal? Map the molecular makeup of animal meat and rebuild it using only plant proteins.
After extensive trial and error with ingredients like peas, rice, mung beans, and beets, Beyond Meat landed on the perfect plant-based formula to mimic meat. Constantly improving these formulations keeps the culinary team busy in the 24,000 square foot lab.
This top-secret facility also houses a test kitchen for inventing new dishes and products using Beyond Meat. A consumer testing chamber provides feedback. Thanks to the relentless innovation from this clandestine lab, Beyond Meat is growing at a blazing pace.
By 2020, Beyond Meat sales doubled again to $406 million, beating out the global pandemic that crippled many industries. Its products offered the perfect healthy and sustainable protein during COVID-19. Further partnerships like Beyond Meatballs for Subway fueled market share gains.
Beyond Meat didn’t stop innovating, unveiling Beyond Pork and plant-based chicken across Hong Kong for its first overseas launch. The company also brought on athletes and celebrities like Kim Kardashian as brand ambassadors and sponsored NASCAR and NCAA March Madness, hitting new demographics.
In 2021, total revenues climbed 21% to $492 million for the now publicly traded vegan titan. And Beyond Meat's growth is accelerating in 2022, projecting $1.4 billion in annual sales as partnerships expand globally.
From disruptive upstart to inking deals across five continents in just 13 years, Beyond Meat’s rise has been monumental. Its continued push into retail aisles, menus, and households aims to make plant-based protein the new normal. As consumer appetites and corporate priorities shift towards sustainability, Beyond Meat’s meticulous scientists continue cracking the code on recreating meat to transform our health and planet.
Beyond Meat's meteoric growth from startup to global plant-based powerhouse in just over a decade holds valuable lessons for companies in any industry. They exemplified the power of innovation by investing heavily in R&D to deliver on a compelling vision others deemed improbable. Beyond Meat also leveraged partnerships perfectly by getting fast food chains to amplify their distribution overnight. Additionally, they focused obsessively on product quality and consumer experience to build loyalty amid increasing competition. Perhaps most importantly, Beyond Meat maintained a bold, future-oriented outlook that pushed boundaries. They proved even seemingly fixed industries can be transformed for the better with enough imagination and tenacity. Beyond Meat's inspiring rise provides a blueprint for other mission-driven companies aiming to spark positive change.