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Before the Butcher Releases Affordable Plant-Based Meat Product

Before the Butcher, a San Diego-based plant-based meat manufacturer, wants no American left out of the meat analogue trend.

Just last week, the multi-million-dollar Otay Mesa company released Mainstream, an affordable plant-based meat product catering to the budget-minded shopper.

At a suggested retail price of $10.99 per pack of eight four-ounce patties, Mainstream is forecasted to be available in club stores and conventional stores by the end of this year, according to Danny O’Malley. Sales, said the Before the Butcher president and founder, are expected to be in the millions of dollars by the end of 2021, with projected year-over-year growth.

Comparable to Meat

“Our goal has always been to provide products affordable for the mainstream,” said O’Malley. He founded the company with the help of an angel investor in 2017 after a three-year stint working as a regional sales manager for plant-based company Beyond Meat. “Up to this point, we had some challenges in getting there, like, being able to find ingredients that were affordable. But we were able to overcome those challenges with this product and are excited to hit the market with something that is affordable and comparable to meat in price and taste.”

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While Before the Butcher’s main Uncut product line is less expensive than Beyond and competitor Impossible Foods already, according to O’Malley, Mainstream takes it a step further.

He said the ingredients in Mainstream will be similar to those of Uncut burger in that it is also soybean based, except instead of using mostly premium ingredients, it uses some commodity ones. This includes the soybean used, also sourced in the Dakotas like Uncut, and some of the spices, he said.

The packaging of the Mainstream brand is also different, said O’Malley, as it will be available in a family-size pack to lower production cost.

Mainstream does include the use of expeller pressed canola oil and refined coconut oil, which are both considered premium. And, much like Uncut, the Mainstream product will be vegan, gluten-free and non-GMO, added O’Malley. The manufacturing process will also remain the same.

Affordable Ingredients

“Over the last couple of years, we’ve learned to be efficient and we’ve scaled back a bit, and we’ve done a great job of purchasing affordable ingredients for this product specifically,” he said. “Today, (plant-based) products on the market are premium and they will remain premium because of the price point. So, the average family might buy plant-based from time to time, but it probably won’t be a regular mainstay although they might want it to be. Now they can say, ‘I’m not worried about price. I choose this because it is a better choice for me and my family.’”

Although just introduced last week, Mainstream is already expected to hit the shelves of the likes of Walmart, Kroger, Aldi and Albertsons. O’Malley said he has been overwhelmed by the amount of requests that have already come in from food service operators, distributors and retail, including one of the biggest club stores in the country. Down the line, O’Malley said he’d love for Mainstream to be in natural food stores as well.

Miro Copic, marketing lecturer at San Diego State University, said if introducing a new brand to the plant-based category, which is currently dominated by Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, the price point and flavor profile have to be convincing.

“There is already a third plant-based alternative that is a little less expensive than Impossible and Beyond. Now, if you try to add a fourth plant-based meat substitute product, there has to be a compelling reason,” he said, adding that, from a pricing perspective, it should cost at least 20% less than the competitors to gain traction. “It has to either match or beat the others in taste, or there has to be a big enough price differential where a consumer will say, ‘that third brand is a dollar less for pound, but Mainstream is $2 less. I’m going to try that.’ Hopefully, the taste is good enough where they will consider buying it again and again.”

Full Line of Mainstream Products

O’Malley is confident Mainstream will win consumers over.

He said Before the Butcher, which was acquired by local ground beef producer Jensen Meat Co. for an undisclosed amount in early 2019, has stripped down its own profits to make Mainstream affordable. He also said the company is already looking at releasing a full line of Mainstream products, including plant-based sausages and ground meat.

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