An open letter penned by Darcey Macken, CEO of plant-based company Planterra Foods, was published this week in the New York Times. Macken’s letter was written in response to a full-page letter published by Dan Curtin, CEO of Lightlife Foods, which appeared in a number of publications—including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today—early last week in which he asserted that Lightlife is making a “clean break” from “food tech” companies. Curtin’s letter specifically named Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods and criticized the companies for allegedly using “hyper-processed” ingredients, GMOs, unnecessary additives and fillers, and “fake blood.” Lightlife’s campaign led to backlash on social media, with commenters pointing out that Lightlife’s ingredients are similar to those used by other plant-based brands and that its “clean break” campaign was detrimental to their shared mission of reducing the slaughter of animals for food. 

While Planterra and Lightlife have some things in common—for one, both are owned by meat companies JBS and Maple Leaf Foods, respectively—their CEOs are seemingly taking different approaches to addressing the growing competition in the plant-based meat industry. “There’s been recent chatter and attempted ‘take downs’ around some companies that helped pave the way for the plant-based food industry and brands,” Macken wrote in her open letter. “To be clear, plant-based meats have been around for decades and we’d be remiss if we didn’t take a moment to say thank you to Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, who shined a light on this space and helped elevate it to where it is today. I believe it’s important to recognize how much this industry has evolved, but we’ve only just begun.”

Both Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods posted public responses to Lightlife’s campaign, characterizing it as deceptive and misleading. “The campaign leans on spurious arguments typically used by the meat industry,” a joint statement penned by Impossible Foods Director of Communications Keely Sulprizio and Chief Communications Officer Rachel Konrad stated. “Attack Impossible’s products not based on their indisputable quality, nutrition, wholesomeness or deliciousness, but based on the number of ingredients—a logic-defying concept with zero relevance to health or product quality, intended to distract consumers from the obvious inferiority of Lightlife and Maple Leaf’s products.” 

In June, Planeterra Foods launched its first vegan meat line OZO in two formats: burger and two flavors of grounds at Albertsons and Safeway in 12 states and is working to expand its distribution in coming months.