MIPS 25th Anniversary Profile: Beyond Meat–taste and product enhancement for plant protein (meat alternative) products

Leading up to (and beyond) the Maryland Industrial Partnerships (MIPS) 25th Anniversary Gala, each weekday we will briefly profile one of the 500+ companies that have utilized MIPS funding to bring innovations to market and create jobs in Maryland. These profiles will be collected in a commemorative book, released at the celebration on November 7.

Project Manager:  Ethan Brown;  Principal InvestigatorY. Martin Lo, UMD
Location:  Cumberland, Maryland – Allegany County;  Project Start Date:  2/1/2011

Business Description
Beyond Meat’s vision is to become the market leader in the commercialization and applications of new plant proteins. The company is focused on perfectly replacing animal protein with plant protein, where doing so creates nutritional value at a lower cost.

Challenge
The size and scale of Beyond Meat’s business will be determined by the rate of consumer adoption of their plant-based proteins. In turn, consumer adoption is heavily influenced by the extent to which they can perfectly mimic the sensory experience of meat using plant protein.

MIPS Role
UMD researchers were critical in addressing the consumer-facing aspects of Beyond Meat’s underlying high-moisture extrusion platform.

Results
Beyond Meat has had a successful product launch, with critics and consumers identifying the product as best-in-class. The company has received investments from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (investors in Google, Amazon, and Genetech) and The Obvious Corporation (founders of Twitter).

MIPS-Related Quotes
“After many years of trial and error with the UMD and University of Missouri team, we were able to produce a product line that a renowned food critic and New York Times columnist was unable to tell apart from meat in several dishes, proclaiming in a front page article in the sunday review that he’d been fooled badly.”
–Ethan Brown, CEO, Beyond Meat

“The MIPS program has been enormously helpful–critical–in bringing together the best resources in food science to advance our plant-based protein platforms. I’d strongly recommend it for any Maryland business that is interested in harnessing the intellectual firepower available and at work in College Park.”
–Ethan Brown, CEO, Beyond Meat

Interesting Facts
Living on the edge of campus, growing up, Ethan considered the University of Maryland his backyard—watching basketball greats hone their skills in Cole Field House, attending camp at Byrd Stadium, and later earning a degree at the School of Public Policy, which was founded by his father, Peter G. Brown.

So, naturally, when it came time to start his company (J Green Foods, then Savage River, Inc.), Ethan returned to his Terrapin roots and called up Maryland’s Dr. Martin Lo, a leading figure in the field of Food Science. He sought Dr. Lo’s help, along with that of Dr. Fu-hung Hsieh at the University of Missouri, in answering the question: “would we continue to raise and eat animals in such staggering numbers if a truly perfect plant-based replication of meat existed?”

Formalized through a 2-Phase MIPS grant, the UMD-Mizzou-Savage River partnership launched Beyond Meat™, with a mission of replacing animal protein with plant protein where doing so creates nutritional value at lower cost. Beyond Meat is rolling out delicious meat-free proteins across the country.  Launched first in Northern California, Beyond Meat’s chicken-free strips garnered the ABC headline “Substitute Chicken Flying Off the Shelves.”

Download the Beyond Meat spread from the upcoming book, “MIPS 25thAnniversary Commemorative Collection: Creating Partners in Innovation,” to be released at the MIPS 25th Anniversary Gala on Nov. 7.

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