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growing trend@ (In 2nd paragraph, corrects company statement to make it that products will be available in September, not next week)
Aug 12 (Reuters) - Meat processor Smithfield Foods Inc on Monday launched a line of soy-based meat products, joining an increasing number of companies catering to growing demand for meat alternatives.
The Pure Farmland products include soy-based burgers, meat balls, sausages and ground meat, and will be available at Kroger Co, Sprouts Farmers Market Inc and Target Corp starting in mid-September, John Pauley, Smithfield's chief commercial officer, said in an interview.
By February 2020, the brand will be available at over 5,000 retail stores, Pauley said.
The Virginia-based company, owned by China's WH Group Ltd plans to branch out to the food services sector, he said, declining to provide further details.
Smithfield's production and supply chain infrastructure, and marketing and distribution network give it an edge over its rivals, Pauley added. "We're not the new guy, we've been around for a long time."
Established meat producers and upstarts are entering the market as consumers add more plant-based protein to their diet amid growing concerns about animal welfare, health risks from eating meat, and the environmental hazards of intensive animal farming.
Companies such as Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, and meat producers including Tyson Foods Inc, Maple Leaf Foods Inc and Perdue Farms are selling sausages, burgers and imitation ground beef largely made from pea protein or soy. (Reporting by Tina Bellon in New York; Editing by Richard Chang)