In an open letter published in newspapers including The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, Lightlife Foods slammed plant-based meat leaders like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods.
“Enough with the hyper-processed ingredients, GMOs, unnecessary additives and fillers, and fake blood,” Lightlife President Dan Curtin writes in the letter. “While we want the same things — a greener planet and a more sustainable food system — at Lightlife, we’ve chosen a very different way to get there. We’re making a clean break from both of you ‘food tech’ companies that attempt to mimic meat at any cost.”
The company’s “clean break” letter compares other plant-based burgers with Lightlife’s new burger which only uses 11 ingredients and minimal processing that can be boiled down to 5 understandable steps.
While Lightlife’s letter highlights the very real trend of “clean” eating with recognizable ingredients, their burger still has the same calorie count and overall fat as Beyond and Impossible burgers.
Lightlife and Beyond burgers have similar ingredient lists as well. The main ingredients in both products are pea protein, water, coconut and canola oil, vinegar, salt, beet extract/powder, and some form of cellulose as a binder.
Beyond Meat responded to Lightlife’s accusations in an email statement to Food Dive: “If Lightlife were clear on our ingredients, they would see that our food is made from simple, plant-based ingredients. With no GMOs. No synthetic additives. No carcinogens. No hormones. No antibiotics. No cholesterol. Our foods are designed to have the same taste and texture as animal-based meat, giving more consumers more options that are better for them and the planet.”
The GMOs, additive, fillers, and fake blood that Lightlife criticizes are more likely attacking Impossible Foods for using bioengineered soy leghemoglobin or “heme,” which helps give the product a more meaty taste. However, the issue of heme has been settled by the FDA in 2019 with the agency recognizing heme as safe.
Impossible Foods responded to Lightlife’s accusations calling the attack “highly misleading” and “a desperate attempt to cast doubt on a company and products against which it can’t compete on quality or value.” Impossible Foods argues this attack is just another campaign financed by one of the largest animal agriculture companies in North America to “sow uncertainty and doubt” around plant-based meat.
“Fortunately, a growing number of consumers recognize meat-industry propaganda and the agenda behind it. And when they go to the grocery store, they pick the product that delivers on taste, nutrition, and sustainability. They pick Impossible Burger,” Impossible Foods concludes.
Dr. Rachel Cheatham, an Adjunct Assistant Professor at the Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy and CEO of Foodscape Group, said in a statement to Food Navigator that Lightlife’s claims feel like “PR stunt.”
Rather than fostering a relationship directly with consumers, Cheatham noted that Lightlife is instead “picking public battles with competition.” Infighting within the plant-based meat sector is not commonplace as the conventional meat industry is normally considered their greatest source of opposition.
Since the pandemic began, plant-based meat sales have skyrocketed. Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat have been leading the surge, expanding its sales and reach in the U.S. and other countries.
Lightlife’s attacks may be an attempt to hold its fellow companies accountable but it could also simply be a way to distinguish the 41-year-old company from the game-changing frontrunners, Impossible Foods, and Beyond Meat.
Read about the recent developments in the plant-based meat industry.
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