Tyson Foods, the world’s largest meatpacker has entered the alternative meat sector with its Raised & Rooted product range.

The alternative protein segment is estimated to be a multi-billion-dollar category and continues to grow. It is no wonder traditional meat producers are tapping into this market.

The number of people who do not eat meat is expanding, creating an alternative food market and increasing demand for substitutes.

Health and ethics are thought to be driving factors in overall reduced meat intake, but sustainability and climate change are other reasons many are choosing to eat less meat.

Tyson takes on US plant-based food  producers

However, it is not just vegan businesses that are profiting from changing consumer eating habits.

Tyson Foods has increased the number of meat-free products it produces with this latest launch. The brand will initially include two products: an imitation chicken nugget and a burger product that blends beef and pea protein. The launch of Raised & Rooted will allow Tyson to compete directly with US plant-based food producers Beyond Meat and Impossible Burger.

Similarly, US meat giant Cargill is also embracing the trend by backing meatless substitutes. The company announced in 2019 that it is open to major acquisitions as it looks to tap growing demand for alternative proteins.

According to Dave MacLennan, CEO of Cargill, the food industry’s biggest disrupter is alternative forms of protein – such as meat made from plants or produced in the laboratory.

Can Tyson use its market position to outcompete rivals?

Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods are the fastest-growing companies in plant-based meat due to partnerships with the fast-food sector. Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods proteins are in demand with quick-service menus with items like faux fried chicken at KFC and Impossible Whoppers at Burger King.

However, by establishing a position in this growing market, Tyson Foods can exercise a key competitive advantage over these players by using its long-standing relationships with major food retailers to popularise the Raised & Rooted brand.

Growth opportunity or major change of strategy?

The move by Tyson into the alternative meat market has not come as a surprise. In February, the food producer announced its development of an in-house plant-based protein product line.

Tyson is also an investor in Memphis Meats, and Future Meat Technologies and in 2019 sold a stake in unicorn Beyond Meat. These companies develop plant-based meat substitutes and cultured clean meat, respectively.

This is a strategic move. Tyson Foods is positioning itself more broadly as a protein company rather than as just a meat producer. Not only is the company diversifying its product offering but is also increasing its potential consumer base, which will, in turn, generate growth.