Sean Connolly, CEO of food conglomerate ConAgra Brands, believes that vegan brand Gardein is a $30 billion opportunity within the booming plant-based industry. Last year, ConAgra acquired Gardein parent company Pinnacle Foods in a $10.9 billion deal and, after Connolly saw the astronomical rise of brands such as Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, he bets that its plant-based holdings will prove lucrative. “That means the opportunity here could be in the range of $30 billion just in the United States. And you know, there’s even more opportunity internationally.” Connolly said during ConAgra’s fourth quarter earnings call last week. “Our view is that the relative size of animal protein consumption serves as a useful guide for how to think about the market opportunity for plant-based alternatives. As you can see, burgers are important but this market extends well beyond beef patties or even beef.” During the call, Connolly attributed ConAgra’s slump in earnings to an increase in the price of steel cans, which it uses to package its Chef Boyardee and Hunt’s brands. However, Connolly promised shareholders innovation that would put Conagra at the forefront of the plant-based boom. “Gardein’s current burger platform is underdeveloped and we’re in the process of creating the next generation of beefless burger to better compete in this popular segment,” Connolly said. “As we do this, we expect accelerated growth at retail and in food services. But we also plan to compete across the important hot dog and sausage categories.” This year, Gardein expanded its line with 11 new frozen meals—including Spicy and Maple patties, Shakshuka Breakfast Bowl, and Lambless Vindaloo Skillet Meal—which will all be available at major retailers starting in July.
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