Why This Investor Is Betting Big Money on Vegan Chicken

Why This Investor Is Betting Big on Vegan Chicken

What’s the next Beyond Burger?

According to investor Roger Lienhard, it’s vegan chicken.

Lienhard is the founder of the Blue Horizon Corporation (Blue Horizon is a LIVEKINDLY investor). The group seeks out the up-and-coming vegan companies for its investments.

Lienhard recently sat down with Bloomberg News in Germany to discuss the booming vegan food market.

“It’s about the burger at the moment,” he told Bloomberg’s Matt Miller. Specifically, it’s all about two brands right now: Beyond Meat and its rival Impossible Foods, companies Blue Horizon has invested in. Both are seeing huge success with vegan burgers that rival beef; the burgers look, cook, and taste like ground beef. And meat-eaters can’t get enough of them.

Beyond Meat made headlines earlier this month when it became the first vegan meat company to go public. Its stock prices skyrocketed more than 160 percent on opening day, making it one of the largest IPOs in the U.S. in the last two decades. Beyond Meat’s Beyond Burger is sold in chains including A&W, TGI Fridays, and Carl’s Jr. It also makes realistic sausage and ground beef.

Impossible Foods landed on Burger King’s menu last month. The “Impossible Whopper” launched on April 1st with an April Fool’s Day themed campaign that saw meat-eaters pleasantly surprised to learn their Whoppers were meat-free. Burger King locations selling the meat-free sandwich have seen double-digit sales increases since the launch.

Lienhard says it’s just the beginning for the vegan meat. He predicts it’s poised to follow in the footsteps of the dairy-free market. “Dairy disruption is already over 15 percent in the US,” he told Miller. Sales of dairy-free milk have exploded in the last decade. Between 2012 and 2017, the market grew by more than 60 percent while sales of traditional dairy have been steadily declining.

Vegan Chicken Market

Vegan chicken is coming to a meal near you.

But it’s chicken Lienhard is most excited about. Blue Horizon is an investor in New Zealand-based startup Sunfed Meats, which creates a plant-based chicken. Like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, the company has spent years in development. It believes it makes a vegan chicken that’s indistinguishable from the real thing. It’s a harder task in some respects; creating a ground beef style meat is a lot easier to achieve than a whole cut of meat style product where texture plays nearly as much of a factor as taste.

And while vegan burgers are creating quite a buzz in the U.S. and around the world, Americans actually consume far more chicken than any other meat–nearly double that of beef. According to USDA data, Americans consumed 93 pounds of chicken per person in 2018 versus 55 pounds of beef per person.

The R&D side is critical in the development of these vegan meat options. Companies like Beyond and Sunfed aren’t targeting the vegetarian or vegan consumer — they want the meat-eaters, the flexitarians switching up their meat like they do their dairy products.

To capture the meat-eating consumer’s interest, companies need two things: products that taste indistinguishable from their animal counterparts, and products that can compete on price. Lienhard says there’s no doubt that will happen. It’s just a matter of ramping up distribution to reach the mainstream consumer with vegan meat options.

“They’re already here,” he said. “They’re amazing.”