As an entrepreneur, you need to think big. But what if your grand idea completely defies a concept that's long been ingrained in consumers?

If you're Beyond Meat founder Ethan Brown, you roll with it and wait for the rest of the world to catch up. Brown's goal is to fundamentally change people's definition of what meat is. To accomplish that, he quit his high-paying job to develop products that look and taste like beef or sausage but are made entirely from plants.

"To get people to buy in long-term that this isn't just a fad or the latest diet craze that's going to come and go, we really have to get people to buy into the fact that this is indeed meat, it's just meat made from plants," says Allison Aronoff, Beyond Meat's senior communications manager.

Brown and his team decided that the best way to convey that message was to get their products placed in the meat section of the grocery store, alongside conventional beef. When they first approached stores, they were only offered a spot in the vegetarian section. Brown viewed the response as a sign that the retailers didn't believe in Beyond Meat's mission. The company turned them down.

Brown didn't back down, and eventually Whole Foods decided to take a chance on the brand with placement in the meat section of their stores. From there the products took off and gained the company entrée into other grocery chains. Since January more than a thousand Carl's Jr. restaurants also have been selling Beyond Meat's burgers, according to The New York Times.

The company faces serious competition from other "new meat" companies like Impossible Foods, as well as traditional food businesses like Tyson Foods, which recently sold a stake in Beyond Meat because it plans to develop its own alternative meat. Still, it's clear that Brown's idea has caught on: The 10-year old company went public earlier this month at a $1.5 billion valuation.

Even with that success, Brown continues to think big, focusing on how plant-based meat can help reduce the environmental impact of feeding the world's rapidly growing population. 

"We have to figure out a way to get the animal out of the process and continue to provide meat to people in a way that's more sustainable," he says. 

Published on: May 15, 2019