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JBS-owned Planterra Foods is to shut down

October 3, 2022

The Brazilian meat giant, JBS, is closing its Planterra Foods business unit in the USA just two years after the subsidiary launched its Ozo alt-protein brand.

JBS’ US division, based in Colorado, is also closing the Planterra Foods manufacturing facility in Denver. In a statement sent to industry-leading platform, Just Food, Brazil-listed JBS stated that it is “actively working” with the employees to provide jobs at other US sites.

The Denver Business Journal reported at the weekend that more than 100 jobs would fall foul of the move.

“JBS USA has made the decision to discontinue operations in its US-based Planterra business unit. We continue to believe in the potential of plant-based options for consumers and remain committed to the alternative-protein market,” the statement read.

Planterra rolled out the Ozo brand to the retail and food-service channels across the USA in the spring of 2020 featuring burgers and meatballs made from a blend of pea and rice proteins. Those proteins were supplied by MycoTechnology, which uses the fermented roots of Shiitake mushrooms, or mycelia.

The Ozo brand, which also includes plant-based breakfast sausage patties, bacon and nuggets, was then introduced into Canada, followed by the out-of-home channel in the Baja and Yucatan peninsulas of Mexico. Planterra also planned to launch products in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean islands, the company said last year.

Depending upon the sources you choose to read, plant-based meat has been the subject of slowing category growth of late, particularly in the USA, with some industry watchers saying previous assumptions over the market potential were overblown. "This morning, news of JBS, one of the world's biggest meat giants, shuttering their Planterra Foods plant-based division is firing across inboxes around the world. Prepare for the vultures to attack," read a post on LinkedIn by Jennifer Stojkovic, author of the The Future of Food is Female and a well-known flag-bearer of a plant-based lifestyle. "They'll show up and say, 'See! I told you the plant-based industry is dead!' They'll share articles about Beyond Meat, one company of hundreds and hundreds in the industry, and their latest earnings report, declaring them proof that an entire industry is dead."

Of course, Stojkovic is correct. The meat industry and naysayers will use this as evidence that the plant-based industry is seeing its bust after the boom, when in actual fact it's probably more of a sensible leveling out to more sustainable growth patterns and as with many growth sectors, there will be some failures along the way. They won't point to countless surveys about consumers more and more opting for a plant-based diet and being open to new innovations such as cultivated meat (see Most consumers in western Europe want alternatives to conventional meat, survey shows)

"Behind the scenes, we may see a continued drive to grow the meat business and deploying a variety of tactics to greenwash the beef industry by hijacking the regenerative agriculture movement, getting millions in government handouts from the “climate-smart” agriculture programs, promoting beef consumption through countless industry organizations, and of course, doing everything they can to stave off any threats from market disruptions like plant-based or cultivated meat by running covert PR campaigns," commented Irina Gerry, Chief Marketing Officer of Change Foods in a Green Queen column. "I wish we could find a way to get the largest meat companies to genuinely embrace the sustainable food system transformation. I wish we could get them to deploy their massive market power and actually create demand for plant-based meat alternatives while welcoming the global shift to plant-centric diets. For a while, it looked like maybe Planterra Foods would be the face of such transformation and I am sad to see it go. I wish we could deploy the power of JBS to create new sustainable business models that help us keep a livable planet, because making plant-based meat a success story is not a matter of opinion or business opportunity, it is a matter of survival."

Planterra said when the business introduced the Ozo brand that it was targeting flexitarians. However, questions have since been raised about the frequency of consumption and repeat rates by that consumer group.

A year after launching Planterra, JBS acquired a plant-based business in Europe, Vivera in the Netherlands. The Sao Paulo, Brazil-headquartered company also makes meat alternatives under its animal-protein brand, Seara. It is reported that those businesses are safe, according to JBS.

“JBS will focus its efforts on its plant-based operations in Brazil and Europe, which continue to gain market share and expand their respective customer bases,” it said in the statement.

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