Sausage Maker Gets Rid of Fake Meat After Damning Results: 'We Believed What Was Being Written in the Press'
Remember the days when we were being told the next big thing in burgers were burgers that weren’t really burgers and sausages that weren’t really sausages?
Between the end of the 2010s and beginning of the 2020s, it seemed like you couldn’t go a week without hearing about some newfangled way to make meat-based products that didn’t involve meat. Really, a whole host of startups swore, these patties made of quinoa and fermented tofu taste just. like. angus. beef. And the media bought it.
However, there was a bit of a problem. While the media was busy buying it, the public was busy doing something else: namely, not buying it, at least if they already weren’t.
That’s why British vegan meat maker Heck — yes, that’s their name — has announced it’s cutting out nearly all of its animal-free sausages after finding out the hype didn’t translate into sales.
According to a report in the U.K. Telegraph earlier this month, Yorkshire-based Heck said it was reducing its range of vegan sausages (or “bangers” if you’re a Britisher) from 15 to two after the company co-founder said the public “wasn’t quite ready” to buy into them.
Wait, so Bill Gates’ advice about the developed world switching, en masse, to synthetic meat didn’t get followed? I’m shocked, I tell you. Absolutely shocked.
As is Heck co-founder Andrew Keeble, although he had a bit more skin in the game. His admission about why the vegan bangers failed is, at the very least, brutally honest.
“We had a huge range of vegan products, because like everyone else, we believed what was being written in the press,” Keeble said. “If you look at the massive sort of Silicon Valley valuations out there, people were investing in vegan brands, and they didn’t want to miss the next Google.”
Except, from the looks of things, the vegan meat-substitute market is mostly made up of MySpaces and BuzzFeeds.
“The vegan market is really funny. We actually had some amazing products out there that were very functional, very good for your gut — [such as] one with quinoa and beetroot in it,” Keeble said.
“But the public somehow wasn’t quite ready for it yet. They didn’t want all that veg in the sausage.”
This might have been a good thing to discover before jumping on board the vegan-meat bandwagon; sales of the assumedly vile quinoa/beetroot not-really-sausage and other meatless products dropped an astonishing £37.3 million ($46.3 million) in the year ending Sept. 10, 2022, according to data cited by the Telegraph. Vegan meat sales also slumped by nearly 11 percent over the six months prior to March 20 in five of the U.K.’s biggest supermarket chains: Tesco, Asda, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose.
Keeble remains hopeful: “We’re still committed to vegan. I think in time, as the market settles down and develops, I think the lovely quinoa, beautiful sausages will come back.
“I think that’s what people really want. I don’t think they really want false meat. But the market is not that developed yet.”
Right. Keep in mind that this is someone who told the Yorkshire Post in 2019, “Because of global meat prices, we predict that nearly all our sales will be vegan in the future.” That didn’t exactly pan out, it seems — because again, hype doth not equal sales.
In the meantime, Heck is pretty lucky to have only posted a loss of £161,999 ($201,212) in the year to July 2022, with rising costs also being to blame. Keeble was looking on the bright side, however.
“If you look at the cost of living crisis at the moment, I’m sort of hoping … that sausages are a really good place to be because they’re not an expensive meal,” Keeble said.
“Our typical pack of sausages now, as of last week, was about £3.20, up to £3.40. If you have that with a couple of baked potatoes or a can of beans, it’s still really, really cheap. It’s half the price of a McDonald’s.”
Ah, yes. McDonald’s. Let’s talk them for a second, because — like English weather is always wont to do — their experience with plant-based burgers is going to rain hard on Mr. Keeble’s bright-side Pollyanna parade.
Heck, while a big player by U.K. standards, has nothing on Beyond Meat — the Google of plant-based meat alternative startups. In 2021, Beyond Meat and McDonald’s reached a deal to roll out a plant-based burger at 600 of the restaurant’s locations, according to CNBC. Less than a year later, the McPlant was being phased out because, and I know you’ll never believe this, people going to McDonald’s aren’t interested a burger that’s not really a burger.
That announcement was made on July 28, 2022. Beyond Meat’s stock had already fallen from a high of $194.95 in October of 2020 to $31.99 on July 29, 2022. As of Monday, it was worth $10.85 — a nearly 95 percent drop.
In the meantime, Beyond Meat began slashing jobs last October and announced the departure of three executives. While you can’t judge a company by its stock price, it’s still worth noting that none of this seems to have helped much.
Long before the fortunes of Heck went to hell — and as Beyond Meat’s troubles were just becoming clear — the Telegraph asked what had gone with the meat-substitute bubble in a piece last June. There were a few significant issues: cost and the problems of scaling production being just two of the issues plaguing the industry, particularly as food inflation was a major issue.
One, however, seemed to stick out above all the others: “Finally, it didn’t deliver any real benefits. Most vegetarians are perfectly happy to stop eating meat, and don’t need faux burgers to placate them. The carnivores might have tried it once or twice but quickly lost interest especially as it became more expensive. Meanwhile, there was no real evidence that plant burgers and fake chicken were healthier or had fewer calories. Apart from a vague appeal to a consumer’s morality, it does not have a lot going for it.”
Oh. And they taste like garbage. That too.
Thankfully, Heck does indeed have a line of honest-to-goodness meat for you to buy. I’m going to assume it’s at least passable. However, if try to push more of those quinoa bangers on us via guilt-trips and self-delusion about their palatability, they can go to heck.
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