Hormel’s Jennie-O debuts blended turkey burgers

Source: fooddive.com

Dive Brief:

  • Hormel’s Jennie-O Turkey Store has launched a line of hybrid burgers made with a blend of white meat turkey, black beans, whole grain rice and pepitas.
  • Jennie-O Turkey Burger Blends have 15 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber per serving.& The frozen burgers have a suggested retail price of $6.99 to $7.99 and come in packages of four quarter-pound patties.
  • Hormel launched the new burgers to target consumers’ growing interest in adding more plant-based foods to their diets, according to a press release. A number of legacy meat producers have pivoted to provide more options to flexitarians with blended products.

Dive Insight:

As consumers increase their consumption of plant-based foods and questions loom about the future of meat consumption, many established meat companies are experimenting with folding plants into their formulations. 

More than half (53%) of consumers consider themselves mainly omnivorous, according to a 2020 study by Packaged Facts, and 36% identify as flexitarian — eating meat or poultry and regularly adding vegan or vegetarian meals. Nearly two-thirds of consumers between the ages of 25 to 70 are also taking steps to cut back on their meat consumption, according to HealthFocus International data.

Products incorporating both plant and animal foods could play out well among flexitarians and reach a broader swath of consumers. Taking a blended approach also helps manufacturers avoid the challenge of making entirely plant-based alternatives that still taste and smell like conventional meat, which has been an ongoing issue for the segment.

Hormel has already worked with blended products. In 2019, it launched organic blended burger patties under its Applegate brand that mix beef with mushrooms. It has also been active in the plant-based space. That same year, it debuted its Happy Little Plants line of meat alternatives. 

The blended burger launch is happening at a time when Jennie-O is wrangling with higher costs, including turkey feed prices. In Hormel’s most recent earnings report, the company said Jennie-O’s net profits were off 30% in its first quarter ending Jan. 24 due to higher supply chain and freight costs, and the decline in foodservice sales. This is despite double-digit growth of Jennie-O lean ground and Oven Ready products. The blended products could offer Jennie-O a new profit center that may not be as exposed to increased input costs. 

Perdue has also dabbled in the blended meat segment. In 2019, it partnered with blended protein startup The Better Meat Co. to launch a line of blended chicken nuggets, tenders and patties under its Chicken Plus line. The products contain cauliflower, chickpeas, plant protein and white meat chicken. Tyson Foods also launched a line of sausages and meatballs under its Aidells brand. 

Not every blended product has been a hit, however. In December 2020, Tyson discontinued a blended burger, The Blend, that contained Angus beef and isolated pea protein and was offered under its Raised & Rooted brand. Tyson reportedly dropped the burger after deciding that its Raised & Rooted brand will not contain any animal products

Food manufacturers may have a hard time trying to appease plant-based advocates and flexitarians with blended products. Time will tell whether efforts to straddle both market segments in a single product are worth it or whether brands should target specific products at the plant-based and meat segments.