Tag Archives: vegan chicken

Why this keeps happening is Beyond Meat

20 Oct

Have you been following my Beyond Meat saga? And by saga I mean two boring blog posts. Plus this one. Three.

It started off on Wednesday when Beyond Meat sent out a not-even-quite-cryptic email asking us all to guess which region they were rolling out in that day. As one of my Instagram followers said: I wasn’t in the mood to guess.

Then after a similarly mysterious Tweet they sent a second Tweet revealing that it’s Southern California. Now keep in mind, Beyond Meat had already been available for a few weeks in the Madeleine Bistro bistro box, and in big bags at Viva La Vegan, and in sandwiches at Phoney Baloney’s. But I guess the fact that it was going into Whole Foods was supposed to be a big deal. The place they expected to find their core audience or something. Like match.com for fake meat and fake meat lovers.

Except they completely blew it. The email, tweets and website all directed people to the prepared foods cases at Whole Foods and listed a whole bunch of Whole Foods locations where you could find it in Los Angeles. So, because I’m pathetic, I jumped right in the car and burned rubber. (Hyperbole.)

Beyond Meat mislabeled as Gardein at the Westwood Whole Foods

But when I got to the Whole Foods in Westwood there wasn’t any in the prepared foods case. Only in a nasty steamed-vegetable-concoction at the hot bar. With a card saying, “Gardein Chicken.” So I headed over to the Whole Foods in West L.A. Where there wasn’t any in the prepared foods case either. Or the hot bar. And only after encountering a knowledgeable and helpful “team member” who wondered why so many people kept coming in that day asking for Beyond Meat, and learning from me that it was their big rollout day, wondered why nobody bothered to tell Whole Foods that or to make sure it was actually on hand.

You see it turned out that both stores DID have Beyond Meat. Only not the day of the rollout. They had it for the previous two weeks. But again, NOT on the day of the rollout. Finally, the helpful team member had an inkling where I might be able to find it — he thought there might be some left over from the previous day at the taco bar. And he was right! There under the tag “Vegan Chicken in Tomatillo Sauce” was some Beyond Meat, and it was as good as the steam table concoction was bad.

I was sold. Or so I thought.

The Beyond Meat in Tomatillo Sauce was so good that I wanted to try it some other ways. So the next day, after getting some very positive tweets from Beyond Meat saying that my blog post had led them to look into their distribution problems, I went off to some of the other Whole Foods listed on the Beyond Meat website to see what I could find.

Beyond Meat Summer Chicken Salad. Photograph taken on October 18th.

At the Whole Foods on 5th and Wilshire in Santa Monica, for the first time I encountered Beyond Meat in the prepared foods case, which is where customers were supposed to be able to find it all along. It was only available in one preparation: a “Summer Chicken Salad.”  Okay, I know, it was October 18th. But I have to tell you, this preparation would not have tasted any better on July 18th. It was nasty. It was in some purple-colored mayonnaise-like dressing that turned the whole salad purple. Who created this recipe, tasted it, and said “Yes, this tastes good!”?  But I bought some anyway because, well, it was still Beyond Meat and I had driven there!

Then I went to the Whole Foods at Wilshire and 23rd in Santa Monica. (Yes, there are two Whole Foods eighteen blocks apart — one was a smaller store from when Whole Foods acquired Wild Oats.) And there, in the giant prepared foods case, at the giant 23rd and Wilshire store, they had NO Beyond Meat. Did they even know what it was? Yes, they did! And they said they had some on Monday, in fact. But not since then. Which means not on Wednesday, the day of the company’s alleged giant rollout.

Vegan Curry Chicken Salad Pre-Pack

However, a few minutes later, nosing through the refrigerated shelving where the pre-packed foods are displayed, I found one (and only one) pre-packed Vegan Chicken Curry Salad. Now mind you, the Whole Foods vegan chicken curry salad is one of my staples and has been since I first went vegan a little over two years ago. Back then it was made with Gardein. I loved it, ate it at least twice a week for lunch. It was really good. Then, about a year ago, they stopped making it with Gardein and switched to Eco-Cuisine. I was devastated! I contacted Whole Foods and was told that Eco-Cuisine absorbed the sauce better and they were sticking with it. *Sigh*

Well, that happens in life. The things you like go away or get changed. You have to move on. And learn to accept online bill pay and eat Eco-Cuisine. So I did. And while it wasn’t as good, I got used to it. Maybe, just maybe, it was almost as good. Or at least as my Gardein Memories faded it was.

But now, in my hand, reading the label, I saw that my beloved vegan chicken curry salad was… drumstick roll please… made with Beyond Meat! Exciting! I guess. So I bought it.

Mislabeled card at Beverly Hills Whole Foods

And then… yesterday… aka Friday… I was in Beverly Hills, and wouldn’t you know it, they also have a Whole Foods that was on the Beyond Meat website list. So I went. And what kind of Beyond Meat did they have in the prepared foods case? Nothing, according to the first team member I spoke to. And nothing, according to the woman he asked after I asked him to ask someone else. However, the person she asked after I asked her to ask someone else, who was the head of the prepared foods section, told me that in fact there was an item in the prepared foods case made with Beyond Meat, and it was… the vegan chicken curry salad. “But look,” I said, “The card for it says it’s made with Eco-Cuisine.” “Yeah I know,” he said, “But the card is wrong.”  And so I bought some, even though I already had some in a pre-pack in my fridge. Because, well, like I said, I was excited about Beyond Meat, and I wanted to see if there was any difference between the fresh and the pre-pack.

And here’s the result of my scientific experiment, aka eating: the Whole Foods vegan curry chicken salad, when made with Beyond Meat, SUCKS. The pre-pack and the fresh sucked equally. They weren’t nearly as good as the Eco-Cuisine, which wasn’t as good as the Gardein. Now I’m a realist, and I don’t ever expect to see Eco-Cuisine at Whole Foods again. They have clearly thrown in their lot with Beyond Meat and whenever Whole Foods make a change like this there is no going back. And like I said, the Beyond Meat in the Tomatillo Sauce at the taco bar was fantastic. Really, really good. But somehow, the sauce from the vegan chicken curry salad, or some other food chemistry reaction from the ingredients, turned the Beyond Meat in the chicken curry salad into a hard rubberlike substance. Chewing it was like chewing taffy, only harder. It was like taking a rubber washer from your washing machine and trying to eat it. One piece was so hard and rubbery I literally could not chew it enough to swallow it. I had to take it out of my mouth and throw it into the trash. It refused to allow itself to be chewed.

THIS IS BAD.

How could someone at Whole Foods have tried this and thought it could be served to humans? I imagine they knew it could not, but were under orders to use Beyond Meat in this product from now on anyway. Period. There is nothing else I can imagine that would explain why Whole Foods would do this. If the BMB (Beyond Meat Boss) were to try a bite of this vegan curry chicken salad he would be horrified. Mortified. Because, like me and my tomatillo, he knows how good his product can be. And this was the opposite. The nadir. It was a showcase for how BAD his product can be. It was so bad you practically wondered if it was a competitor committing sabotage. It really was that gross.

So what’s next? Hopefully, since Beyond Meat seems to be aware and concerned about the fiasco they are enduring in their Whole Foods rollout, they will investigate, get the recipes fixed, and make sure their product is used in ways that make everyone realize how good it can be. Otherwise they will quickly begin to wonder why nobody is buying their product. And Whole Foods, if they have the kind of inventory system I imagine them to have, will wonder why sales of the once quick-moving vegan chicken curry salad have begun to dry up.

And it’s early. I know. And things can be fixed. And I hope they will be. But like I said, how any of this could have happened in the first place is Beyond Meat.

Beyond Meat responds

18 Oct

Beyond Meat Chicken in Tomatillo Sauce taco

Yesterday I wrote about how excited I was to hear that Beyond Meat was finally launching in Southern California. But although the company tweeted that their product was now available here, at the two Whole Foods I went to there was much confusion. Some employees knew what it was and some did not. Both stores said it had been there for two weeks but that it wasn’t in the prepared foods case that day at either — which is where the company’s tweets and emails said it could be found. Even more troubling, at one store the identification card called it simply “Vegan Chicken” while at the other store it was labeled “Gardein Chicken”! From the point of view of Beyond Meat, could things have possibly gone worse?

Perhaps the problems lay with Whole Foods not Beyond Meat, but it seemed at a minimum that Beyond Meat had not coordinated with Whole Foods in the region to make sure that their stores were aware that yesterday was the big rollout day and to even make sure to have enough on hand and to have it be represented in the prepared foods case, which is where Beyond Meat was telling its enthusiastic customers to look for it. Not at the hot food bar  in sorry steam table preparations like this:

As I’m sure you’ve heard, Beyond Meat is billing itself as the best fake meat yet. And I have to say that the texture is better than Gardein, at least for some purposes. If it’s replacing diced or sliced chicken, then Beyond Meat has more of the “give” that real chicken does. Although in something like a chicken parmigiana that calls for a chicken breast, the Gardein might still be the better option. Regardless, it’s always good to have more options, especially if it’s an option that encourages carnivores to try substituting it for real animals.

Today Beyond Meat responded to my blog post and I appreciate how attentive they were. They are looking into it and hopefully that will mean that before long Beyond Meat will truly be available in various preparations at Whole Foods stores throughout Southern California. In the meantime, if your local Whole Foods has a taco bar and has the “Vegan Chicken in Tomatillo Sauce” and it has the more layery look that gives it away as Beyond Meat not Gardein, then by all means get yourself a taco or burrito of it. It was delicious!

Beyond Meat botches its Southern California rollout

17 Oct

I was all excited. After months of anticipation, and then jealousy as Beyond Meat went from Northern California to the Pacific Northwest to the Rocky Mountain, Beyond Meat was finally coming to Southern California, or so said all their PR.

This morning I got a mass email from Beyond Meat’s founder and CEO Ethan Brown stating the following:

“I’m thrilled to announce that today, Beyond Meat makes its debut in delicious recipes in the prepared foods case of another Whole Foods region.”  Then I saw the following tweet: “Have you heard the news on our new regional rollout? Find Beyond Meat in recipes at SoCal @WholeFoods stores” with a link to their website.

On the website there’s a huge splash at the top stating “BEYOND MEAT LAUNCHES IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA” with a link to where you can find it. The Whole Foods that I usually go to in West LA was not listed but the one in Westwood Village was so I went there to get me some. AND NOBODY KNEW WHAT I WAS TALKING ABOUT.

First I went to the prepared foods counter since that’s where the email/tweet/website says it will be. Nope. They didn’t know what I was talking about. So I went to the sandwich counter since I remember people saying that in the Bay Area they got it in sandwiches at Whole Foods. The woman didn’t know what Beyond Meat was. When I explained that it was a type of fake meat she said, “Oh yes” and went into the refrigerator. She came out with a boxed package of seitan. Strike two.

Then I happened to see the store manager walking around so I told him that I saw on Beyond Meat’s website that it’s launching today and that his store was one of the ones that was supposed to have it. He knew what Beyond Meat was! So I was getting closer. He took me over to one of the prepared foods employees to ask where the Beyond Meat items were. Of course the employee didn’t know what Beyond Meat was but when he explained that it was fake meat the employee took us over and pointed out a tray in the hot food bar. Yes, the manager said, this is it.

What was it? A very sad looking item, as you can see from the photo. It was some Beyond Meat chicken that was boiled and/or steamed with some zucchini slices. This is the way that Beyond Meat is showcasing how much its new product is like chicken? By featuring it in a recipe that would turn off just about anyone, from devout vegan to devout carnivore? And here’s the best part: the sign above the item said: “Gardein Chicken”!

Well, the manager assured me that this was not Gardein but was in fact Beyond Meat, and that it was currently the only Beyond Meat item in the store. HOWEVER, he said, it was featured in some tasty salads the other day because they have been selling Beyond Meat for two weeks already!

So I bought a small amount of the boiled/steamed Beyond Meat in zucchini and water and left the store very disappointed. I really wanted some Beyond Meat! If only the bigger Whole Foods in West LA had it, but alas, it wasn’t one of the ones on the list. But hey, if Beyond Meat botched things so bad in Westwood, I wondered if it’s possible that the West LA store would have it anyway, so off I went.

My first stop was the hot food bar and the woman working there said there were no fake meat items in the hot bar and she sent me to the prepared foods case at the other end of the store. Well, they didn’t have anything with Beyond Meat, even though the email/tweet/website directs customers to the prepared foods case.

So I went back to the other end of the store to the sandwich counter. There I asked the employee if he had any Beyond Meat items. He looked at me and said something like, “You’re about the twentieth person to ask me that today! What gives?” Keep in mind it was not even noon at this point. I told him that Beyond Meat was mounting a big launch today of their product at Whole Foods in Southern California. He seemed exasperated and said, “Well nobody told me. It would have been nice to know. We’ve had Beyond Meat items for the last two weeks here but today we don’t have any.” Then he suggested I try the prepared foods case where I told him I’d already been. But I was lucky in that this gentleman was the very helpful type and he did not give up so easily. He took me over to the pizza area because he said they have been using it on pizzas. But unfortunately, the pizza maker said they didn’t have any of it today. Then he got a look in his eye and told me to try the taco bar, where he said there still might be some Beyond Meat left over from yesterday. So I went to the taco bar and sure enough, there in one of the bins, with a card that merely read Vegan Chicken in Tomatillo Sauce, I found it.

Beyond Meat in Tomatillo Sauce

I got a sample and it was good, very good, so I got a pint and I also got a taco. And I have to tell you, it’s tasty. I only wish Beyond Meat were as good with logistics as they are in the kitchen, but I guess if they had to only be competent at one thing, it’s better that it’s at making a tasty product than rolling it out into stores.

Beyond Meat in tomatillo sauce taco. Good!

So if you’re reading this, Mr. Brown, I really think you need to fire your regional manager in charge of your Southern California rollout today, because it appears to be an unmitigated disaster.

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