These three unconventional leaders are reinventing the food industry

These three unconventional leaders are reinventing the food industry

From ingredients and meal organization to food distribution methods, the food industry is undergoing rapid change. And as three food industry innovators told the audience at the Fast Company Innovation Festival on Wednesday, the only way to keep up is with constant innovation.

From left: Jess Burchtinskyteam writer fast company; Joe Arielfounder and CEO of Goldbelly; Ethan Brown, founder and CEO of Beyond Meat; And the Pinky CoolFounder and CEO, Slutty Vegan. [Photo: Maja Saphir for Fast Company]

“We are constantly innovating,” said Ethan Brown, founder and CEO of Plant-Based Protein Manufacturing. Beyond Meat. “We try to make our shelves obsolete with our own innovations.”

[Photo: Maja Saphir for Fast Company]

Brown has made major strides into the mainstream in recent years with major partnerships that have brought plant-based meat alternatives to grocery stores and fast food chains. He says getting there was a battle.

We are challenging the meat industry. They have a lot of money. They have a lot of lobbyists. They put full page ads in The Wall Street Journal And the The New York Times Brown said our products are not healthy. Countering this combo requires more than advertising dollars. Brown said Beyond Meat is working with Stanford University on a long-term study looking at the effect of consuming its products on the human body, and conducting clinical trials to demonstrate the health effects of new products in the works. “Our products are not only healthy, they are getting healthier,” he said.

He added that they are getting closer and closer to replicating the experience of eating meat-based foods, enough for Beyond Meat to continue to forge new partnerships with major fast food chains such as Taco Bell. The new plant-based carne asada steak will hit some restaurants in October.

[Photo: Maja Saphir for Fast Company]

Beyond products are also appearing in more predictable places, such as restaurants run by Pinky Cole, founder and CEO of the vegan fast food chain. Slutty vegan. Cole told a Fast Company Innovation Festival audience that using established products in her restaurants helps lower the barrier to entry for non-vegetarians or people who might actively avoid foods marketed in this way.

Just making an intellectual argument about eating vegan — like the lower carbon footprint of plant-based foods compared to meat, or the inhumane conditions of factory farms — can only go so far. “In order to get people’s attention, you have to meet them wherever they are. . . . if you automatically enter the gate, like, ‘Yeah, that’s green, it’s healthy for you,’ said Cole, ‘the kind of people I attract, they’re not interested in that.’ I serve them burgers.” And pancakes and fries.”

It’s also expanding the offerings on its menu, including new options aimed at kids. Just like the burgers and fries on the rest of the menu, they are familiar dishes that appeal to kids without focusing on their environmental or health benefits.

“I don’t target vegetarians. I target meat eaters who eat chicken, beef, pork, everything,” Cole said. “Those are the people I want to talk to.”

[Photo: Maja Saphir for Fast Company]

Bringing new foods to new audiences is an ongoing challenge for producers and restaurants, but Joe Ariel’s food delivery service Goldbill It removes obstacles such as distance and scale. With a regulated marketplace that offers national delivery of regional foods and produce that would otherwise only be accessible in person, Goldbelly gives restaurants even greater scope, allowing customers the kinds of culinary experiences they might only have while on vacation.

“What we are trying to do is celebrate the local mom and pop shops, to raise the bar for high street and popular, unloved regional foods,” Ariel told the Innovation Festival audience.

He’s also finding new ways to expand the reach of these restaurants. His company recently launched Goldbelly TV, a video platform that aims to highlight the small restaurants Goldbelly has to offer. Ariel said he’s inspired by cooking shows on platforms like Netflix, but with a more democratic feel. “What you will notice is that there are actually dozens of chefs who participate in all those shows,” he said. “We’re trying to strike that emotional chord of what it is that you love, the thing that you want to experience, the connection that you want to make with the food maker. And we feel that the video is that next frontier.”


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