The fake-meat craze appears to be here to stay, and rivals Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat (BYND) have been going head-to-head to claim dominance in the space.
The jury is still out on which burger tastes better, but when it comes to nutrition, which one is the healthier option?
Based on calories, fat, fiber and sodium, Impossible Foods edged out Beyond Meat. However, when it comes to protein and saturated fat content, Beyond Meat had a slight advantage. Both options are vegan and gluten free, but Impossible Foods contains genetically modified organisms (GMO) and soy. Beyond Meat burgers contain no GMOs or soy.
The biggest difference between the burgers comes from their main ingredients. The Beyond Meat burger is made of pea protein isolate (a powder made by extracting protein from yellow peas), while the Impossible Foods burger is made of heme, soy, and potato protein. Heme is an essential molecule that is found naturally in plants and animals — and what causes the Impossible burger to appear to “bleed” like real meat while it’s being cooked.
One of the main concerns among consumers of plant-based proteins is the actual health benefits, according a recent Bank of America survey. The firm conducted a survey of 1,400 consumers to gauge overall sentiment of the alternative-meat craze. The survey found that on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being “not important” and 5 being “most important,” 56% of respondents said that the ingredient list is most important when making a purchase decision.
Details on consumer preference are even more critical as the plant-based protein market balloons. Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods are the biggest players right now, but companies like Tyson (TSN) and Nestle are also making their way into the game.
Since going public in May, Beyond Meat has gone nuclear — not just its stock performance but also its popularity among consumers. The alternative-meat company has been aggressively partnering with restaurant chains like Dunkin’ (DNKN), KFC (YUM), Del Taco (TACO) among a slew of others to grow its presence and market share in the industry.
Nevertheless, with shares skyrocketing more than 500% since its IPO, investors and analysts are concerned over Beyond Meat’s valuation. Bullish Wall Street analysts point to the total addressable market of alternative meats. Barclays analyst Benjamin Theurer estimated that Beyond would capture about 4.5% of global market share of alternative meat in the next decade. Theurer initiated coverage of Beyond with an Outperform rating and a $185 price target Thursday. His price target represents a 19% move higher from Thursday’s closing price.
Meanwhile, after only being available in restaurants, Impossible Foods announced that its burgers will be available on grocery store shelves Friday in Southern California Gelson’s supermarkets. Impossible plans to roll out its products nationwide by the middle of next year.
Much like its rival Beyond, Impossible has an impressive list of restaurant partners. One of its largest partners is Burger King, and after a successful test phase, the burger chain launched the Impossible Whopper in all 7,200 of its stores in the U.S. in early August.
Plant-based vs. real meat
For context, those wondering how a regular beef burger stacks up against a fake-meat burger, Yahoo Finance compared the nutrition facts between Burger King’s Impossible Whopper and regular beef Whopper.
The Impossible Whopper has 630 calories, 34 grams of fat, 11 grams of saturated fat, 1,080 milligrams of sodium, 58 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of fiber, 12 grams of sugar and 25 grams of protein.
Burger King’s regular Whopper contains 660 calories, 40 grams of fat, 12 grams of saturated fat, 980 milligrams of sodium, 49 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 11 grams of sugar and 28 grams of protein.
Based on the recent Bank of America Merrill Lynch survey, 35% of respondents said the reason they opted for plant-based protein was for health or nutrition reasons, while 30% said it was for environmental reasons.
“We are somewhat surprised by the nutritional motivation given that a traditional beef burger and most plant-protein burgers offer similar nutritional value,” the firm wrote. “However, based on Social Standards, consumer motivations skew more towards sustainability and animal welfare concerns. In fact, animal welfare topics are mentioned 15x more often in plant-based conversations than the average food and beverage topic. That is approximately 5x more significant than that of health or diet topics.”
Heidi Chung is a reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter: @heidi_chung.
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