Cofounder, president and CEO, Beyond Meat
Ethan Brown cofounded faux-meat company Beyond Meat in 2009. Its 10th birthday year saw the company file its IPO; form partnerships with food sellers like Dunkin Donuts, Carl’s Jr. and Tim Hortons; and begin testing new faux-chicken products at KFC.
Indeed, as a growing number of so-called meatless meat products line the shelves at grocery stores and pop up on restaurant menus, Beyond Meat remains a category leader. High-profile investments from Bill Gates, Leonardo DiCaprio and Tyson Foods certainly haven’t hurt its cause.
“There is a global problem that we can’t support the number of livestock. There are the human health issues around eating red and processed meat, which is associated with heart disease, diabetes and cancer,” Brown told Time earlier this year. “Then you have to look at the effect on climate, natural resources and the sheer volume of water it takes to keep livestock. Lastly, there’s animal welfare.”
Brown didn’t jump-start his career with meat substitutes, however. He initially took his passions for the environment, health and animals to the clean energy sector, aiming to combat climate change. He switched gears after making a few investments in the restaurant industry, realizing that he could fight climate change by adjusting the formula of the protein on our plates. By doing so, he believed he’d be able to positively affect issues around climate change and human health.
Beyond Meat’s products include faux chicken, burgers, sausage and beef crumbles. Meanwhile, Brown hasn’t backed away from the challenges confronting him and his nascent company: He fought to have the burgers sold in the meat section at Whole Foods, rather than only in the vegetarian section. His thinking was that this would help the company reach consumers who adhere — or don’t adhere — to a strict vegan diet, thus making a larger impact on the health of humans and the environment.