Food & Beverage

Beyond Meat launches new meat-free chicken tenders in U.S. restaurants

Key Points
  • Beyond Meat unveiled an improved meat-free chicken recipe that uses a mix of fava beans and peas for a total of 14 grams of protein per serving.
  • The new tenders will debut in nearly 400 U.S. restaurants on Thursday.
  • The company has not shared any plans to launch the product in grocery stores yet.

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Beyond Meat Chicken Tenders
Source: Beyond Meat

Beyond Meat said a new version of its meat-free chicken tenders will debut Thursday in nearly 400 restaurants across the U.S.

The tenders will be the first Beyond chicken substitute available across the country in more than two years. In early 2019, the company discontinued its original chicken alternative, frozen chicken strips, to focus on its Beyond Burger.

"The demand for our beef products really started to pick up to the point where we really had to allocate all of production capacity to it," CEO Ethan Brown said in an interview. "So we decided to discontinue, which was also motivated by the fact that we wanted to make it better."

Since then, Beyond has a tested a fried chicken substitute with Yum Brands' KFC. The restaurants involved in Thursday's launch are smaller chains or independent eateries.

Brown said the chicken tenders are priced so the product can be sold across the restaurant industry. Moreover, the company's recipe was created with scale in mind, so it can continue to reduce the price as the tenders become more widely available.

The new and improved meat-free chicken recipe uses a mix of fava beans and peas for a total of 14 grams of protein per serving. Peas have served as the primary protein source for Beyond's sausage and beef, although the products also contain small amounts of fava beans and other proteins.

"One of the things that I'm very interested in is continuing to increase the protein diversity that we have," Brown said.

The company's foodservice segment, which includes sales to restaurants, universities and office buildings, has been battered by the coronavirus pandemic. In the three months ended April 3, Beyond's U.S. foodservice revenue fell 26% to $16.7 million. The launch timing lines up with consumers' return to restaurants, but Brown said that it was just a lucky coincidence.

Beyond wants to be aggressive in the poultry category, with plans to release more meat substitutes under that umbrella, Brown said. However, the company did not share any details on when the meat-free chicken tenders would be sold in grocery stores. Retail channels accounted for more than three-quarters of its U.S. revenue during the first quarter.

Shares of Beyond have risen 12% this year, giving it a market value of $8.85 billion, as of Wednesday's close.

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