Beyond Meat launches new, healthier version of burger in bid to bring back customers

Beyond Meat is launching a new version of its plant-based burger in grocery stores this spring, betting that an even healthier version of its burgers will lure back consumers.

The unveiling Wednesday comes at a pivotal time for Beyond as a company. The plant-based meat category, once buzzy, has lost consumers’ interest. Retail sales of meat alternatives have fallen 33.6% compared with a year ago as of Jan. 28, according to Circana data.

Beyond’s retail and restaurant sales have cratered as a result. In the third quarter, its sales had dropped 29% over the past two years. The company’s market value has also dropped, falling to $463 million, down from a high of $14.14 billion four and a half years ago. The stock has fallen 60% over the past year.

The embattled company has always maintained that its meat substitutes are healthier than the real deal. But Beyond touts that the newest iteration of its beef has less sodium and saturated fat than ever before. The reformulation is the biggest upgrade to its recipe since the burger originally launched in 2016, according to Beyond’s CEO Ethan Brown.

“I think the Beyond IV represents a leap forward, versus an incremental step,” Brown told CNBC.

The latest iteration of the Beyond Burger, made with avocado oil and 20% less sodium.

Source: Beyond Meat

The new burger uses avocado oil, cutting its saturated fat by 60% to two grams. Beyond also slashed the sodium in the plant-based meat by 20%. The ingredient list is shorter but features other new additions, such as red lentil and faba bean protein.

“For the last several years, there have been a combination of campaigns and other efforts to try to poison the well, regarding the health benefits of plant-based meat,” Brown said. “In the spirit of iron sharpening iron, we’ve tried to create products that are now fully unassailable from a health perspective.”

Critics have attacked plant-based meat from Beyond and its rivals as processed and full of chemicals. Back in November, Brown said on the company’s conference call that backers of the campaign to malign plant-based meat as unhealthy were likely members of the meat and pharmaceutical industries.

Beyond said that it worked with the Stanford University School of Medicine and registered dietitians, among other experts, to inform the development of the new product.

Beyond is expected to report its fourth-quarter earnings after the bell on Feb. 27.

— CNBC’s Kate Rogers contributed reporting for this story.

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