Tyson Foods Buys Stake in Plant-Based Burger Company

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One of the world’s largest meat companies is investing in a business that aims to replace meat with plant-based alternatives.

American food giant Tyson Foods announced Monday it has taken a five percent ownership stake in California-based vegan startup Beyond Meat.

While some are proclaiming it a milestone on the way to a future of plant-based food, there’s no question it’s an example of a company adapting to changing customer preferences to drive profit. Either way it’s an interesting arrangement.

“We’re enthusiastic about this investment, which gives us exposure to a fast-growing segment of the protein market. It meets our desire to offer consumers choices and to consider how we can serve an ever-growing and diverse global population, while remaining focused on our core prepared foods and animal protein businesses,” says Tyson’s vice president of strategy Monica McGurk.

Named company of the year by PETA in 2013, Beyond Meat sells vegan burgers and chicken substitutes made with ingredients from soybeans, peas, canola, and other plants in over 11,000 stores in the U.S., including Whole Foods.

“My willingness to engage with Tyson may unsettle the most ardent supporters of our brand,” says Beyond Meat founder and CEO Ethan Brown in a blog post on Monday. “Tyson will also likely hear disapproval from certain stakeholders, suppliers, and consumers. Yet in both cases, I like to think that our nascent relationship is a hopeful sign. A sign that we may be moving beyond Oprah v. Cattlemen and toward productive collaboration that expands consumer choice.”

Other investors in Beyond Meat include The Humane Society of the United States, Bill Gates and General Mills’ venture capital fund.

The terms of the investment were not disclosed.

Related: The Meatless “Plant Blood” Burger? No Thank You, I Prefer Real Meat

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