Major Canadian meat producer Maple Leaf Foods announced today its plans to build a vegan meat factory to keep up with the surging demand for plant-based products.
Maple Leaf Foods, which owns U.S. plant-based food subsidiary Greenleaf Foods, is investing $310 million into a Shelbyville, Indiana plant that will double its capacity to create vegan meat products.
Greenleaf Foods, which includes US-based vegan company Lightlife and Field Roast Grain Meat Co., will use the factory to produce its plant-based meats like the new Lightlife burger, which is part of a new wave of vegan burgers said to mimic beef in both appearance and taste.
Maple Leaf Foods cited “surging consumer demand” for the decision to build the new 230,000-square-foot plant, which will employ 460 workers.
“Our investment in plant-based protein is an investment in growth,” Maple Leaf CEO Michael McCain told analysts on a conference call this morning.
He added that the launch of the new factory will “enable us to grow lockstep with this burgeoning market.”
In February, McCain called 2018 a challenging year for Maple Leaf Foods due to flatlining sales but suggested that the company would turn more toward its vegan products as they performed exceptionally well, with the category seeing 30% growth.
“We’re going to continue to invest in it and ride that wave aggressively,” he said at the time, referring to the vegan products.
While McCain said he doesn’t believe the increase in consumption of meat alternatives signals people turning away from animal-derived meat entirely, he emphasized that as a company focused on growth, Maple Leaf Foods will be there to capitalize if it happens.
“Historically, if one category cannibalizes another, that’s perfectly fine by us,” McCain said. “Our job is to meet our consumers’ needs.”