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Tyson Foods’ shock and awe strategy for alternative proteins

June 25, 2019
Food & Drink

The Raised & Rooted alternative protein brand recently introduced by Tyson Foods, Inc. is just the beginning. Executives outlined the company’s strategy in the emerging category during its annual investor day, held June 20 in New York.

“After deep analysis of the space, we’re convinced that the growth is both incremental and meaningful in potential size, but that’s not the only part of this picture,” said Justin Whitmore, executive vice-president of alternative proteins and chief sustainability officer for Tyson Foods.

Mr. Whitmore said the company made internal and venture capital investments in companies such as Beyond Meat to learn about the alternative protein space. Those learnings form the framework of the strategy currently being rolled out to the marketplace. The strategy hinges on four core capabilities.

“The first is culinary expertise,” Mr. Whitmore said. “Often, we hear about R.&D. being a core differentiator in alternative proteins, and we have that in spades.

“But the reality is that culinary expertise, the ability to make great-tasting food, matters just as much … Over time, this market will be about great-tasting food more than science, and we have the largest team of culinologists in food.”

Alternative proteins map

The second insight the company gleaned is brands matter in the alternative protein space.

“There is a new paradigm emerging where brands are showing up on food service menus in a manner that we haven’t seen in recent history,” Mr. Whitmore said. “We have a host of flagship brands across our portfolio that are winning in the marketplace.

“So not just Raised & Rooted, but across our flagship brands, and we will play in a variety of categories that meat eaters love today. Familiar forms, familiar flavors, familiar experiences. … We won’t go into the categories but expect that to all happen starting in this next 12-month period of time, so we’re moving quickly.”

Supply chain scale and Tyson Foods’ long relationships with suppliers and customers round out the alternative protein strategy.

“We have embedded relationships and infrastructure across the entire alternative protein supply chain from farm to fork, and we have this today,” Mr. Whitmore said. “This is a big deal, as smaller players will struggle to scale operations to meet the growing demand.

Aidells Whole Blends Samosa Seasoned Meatballs, Tyson Foods“Our deep customer relationships forged over decades of partnerships will enable us to make our products available to the masses. People will not have to change who they are or how they shop to enjoy our products — no 3- to 5-year ramp-up plans. We can do this as fast or faster than anyone.”

Mr. Whitmore added that he sees health and wellness becoming an issue as competitors seek to differentiate their alternative protein offerings.

“As people increasingly start to look at the nutritional panels across many upstart alternative protein brands and realize that many options may not be as good for them as they initially thought, our products will stand out,” he said. “Our (Raised & Rooted) 100% plant-based nuggets made from peas have omega-3s, 5 grams of fiber and less saturated fat. Our burger, made from a blend of lean Angus beef and pea protein, has fewer calories, less fat, as much or more fiber than the high-growth alternative protein products in the market and is packed with 19 grams of protein.”

Management declined to discuss sales projections for its alternative protein initiatives, but Mr. Whitmore said, “we expect this business to contribute to total Tyson in a way that’s meaningful and adding to our profit profile.”

Emphasizing the commitment to the category, Noel W. White, president and chief executive officer, said the company raised its marketing and promotional spend between fiscal 2018 and fiscal 2019, and, “we intend to fully compete in the alternative protein space and if that means that we need to up our spend again, we will.”

By Keith Nunes

Source: Food Business News

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