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  • Unconventional Ag

New organic plant-based burger debuts

California food company Don Lee Farms is breaking into the alternative meat segment with the support of Costco, which has debuted the company's organic Plant-Based Raw Burgers. This is the latest entrant in the next generation of plant-based burgers that more closely resemble beef burgers in presentation - including "bleeding" juices and the telltale sizzle of grilling meat. Don Lee Farms' burger is a blend of beans and seeds that bleeds beet juice.

The alternative meat space is currently dominated by Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat, both of which have secured significant funding rounds and widespread distribution deals in the past year.

Founded in 2011 by Stanford University professor Patrick Brown, Impossible Foods has raised $27 million from an impressive array of investors, including Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund Temasek, UBS, Open Philanthropy Project, Bill Gates, Khosla Ventures, and Horizon Ventures. The company’s flagship product is a plant-based, meatless burger that contains soy leghemoglobin – a protein that carries “heme”, an iron-rich molecule that is naturally present in all animals and plants, and bleeds out of the burger when cooked.

Beyond Meat made news later in the year when it announced a funding round of $55 million to support the company’s strategic goal of tripling production. The round was led by venture capital firm Cleveland Avenue and included repeat investor Tyson Foods. Tyson is the largest meat company in the U.S. by sales and was the first global meat company to invest in a meat alternative startup when it announced it had acquired a five percent stake in the plant-based producer for an undisclosed amount.

Don Lee Farms' announcement comes right on the heels of the launch of the UK's first alternative meat burger, launched by London-based Moving Mountains. The company's "B12" burger also uses beet juice to produce its bleeding effect and is currently available exclusively at Mildred's, a UK vegan restaurant chain, although further rollout is planned for 2018.

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