Beyond Meat comes to Canadian grocery stores

The much-hyped plant-based protein company is bringing its burger to 3,000 stores across the country to reach even more "flexitarians."

Beyond Burger_Summer 2018 (2)

Buzzy plant-based protein brand Beyond Meat is making its first push into Canadian grocery stores, giving “flexitarians” another channel through which to buy its Beyond Meat burger.

By the end of May, the brand expects its flagship product to be stocked at many of Canada’s top grocery banners, as well as several independent and natural food stores. It listed Loblaws (as well as its Fortinos, Maxi and Superstore banners), Metro (along with Food Basics and Super C), Sobeys (along with Foodland, Freshco, IGA, Safeway and Price Chopper), Whole Foods and Longos among the multiple banners it will be available at, aiming to have a presence in 3,000 locations across the country.

Beyond Meat first launched in the U.S. in 2009, and has generated buzz for how well its plant-based burger replicates the taste and feel of meat-based burgers, which contain 20g of protein, are lower in fat than a beef burger and made without soy, gluten or GMOs. It is also known high-profile investors and brand ambassadors that include Bill Gates, Kyrie Irving, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jessica Chastain and Snoop Dogg, as well as U.S. meat producer Tyson. It has since expanded its product selection to include sausages and imitation ground meat.

It first came to the Canadian market through partnerships with QSRs, first with A&W (which sold out of the Beyond Meat burger after launch), then with Quesada and B.C. restaurant chain White Spot. It also expanded its selection at A&W earlier this year, making it the first restaurant to stock its new breakfast sausage product. Will Schafer, VP of marketing at Beyond Meat, tells strategy that partnering with QSRs – something it will continue to do after the retail launch – helped make the brand and its products more accessible before it made the more complicated push into retail.

“Working with food service partners allows us to more quickly enter local markets, as getting into retail is a much lengthier process,” he says, referring to things like localizing packaging, labeling requirements and timing for shelf resets. “Retail is an important component to our business, but to advance our mission of making plant-based meat as accessible as possible, we have to pursue multiple channels at once.”

Beyond Burger Packaging_Canada 2 (1)Schafer says the response to Beyond Meat through QSR was a good gauge of demand for its products in the Canadian market. But he points to Beyond Meat’s retail success south of the border as the impetus for Canadian grocers’ willingness to stock its products in the meat aisle from the start, which was something it had to push hard for in the U.S.

The fact that Beyond Meat is sold in the meat aisle of grocery stores, instead of with vegetarian and vegan food, is a notable hallmark of the brand, and Schafer says the placement is vital, given its target customer.

“If we sell our products next to the ice cream or tofu, we’re in the penalty box,” Schafer says. “Our vision is to attract carnivores and flexitarians, not vegans or vegetarians, so we need to meet those consumers where they are used to buying their protein, [which is] in the meat case.”

While less than 10% of Canadians are vegetarian or vegan, there is a growing number of “flexitarians” who are looking to limit their meat consumption, which many see as having health benefits or as being a way to reduce their impact on the environment. A recent study found that nearly 85% of Canadians claim to eat at least one vegetarian meal per month, and almost 50% do so at least once a week.

On the marketing front, Beyond Meat will be co-developing plans with its local retail partners to drive “awareness and buzz,” Schafer says. He adds that the marketing approach in Canada will remain largely the same following the retail launch, but will be developing more “brand-led moments” instead of focusing entirely on new partner announcements. Beyond Meat is working with PR agency Golin in Canada.

Beyond Meat filed for an initial public offering in November, which was reported this week to value the company at roughly $1.2 billion USD. It plans to begin trading early next month.