Founded in 2016, by Danny O’Malley, Before the Butcher is a plant-based protein company producing a bounty of plant-based products for retail, foodservice and private label, including plant-based burgers, breakfast sausage patties, chorizo, multiple varieties of ground beef and sausage, and more.

Before the Butcher’s quest to create indistinguishable plant-based pepperoni earned them an award-winning product joining a robust roster of proteins for retail and foodservice that look, cook, and taste like their animal-based counterparts, while being free of gluten, dairy, cholesterol, hormones and antibiotics.

With previous roles at Sysco and Beyond Meat, O’Malley is a plant-based eating advocate and a member of the Plant Based Foods Association’s Board of Directors. 

Before the Butcher’s plant-based pepperoni won a Food and Beverage (FABI) Award from the National Restaurant Association in 2023. How long did it take to make plant-based pepperoni mimic the real thing and what were some of the greatest challenges in developing the product? 

Crazy as it seems, it took 20 months and 62 versions from our first bench sample to the final version now in distribution. The greatest challenge was creating a familiar texture and ensuring the product’s integrity after production and slicing. It needed to look, cook and taste great.  With continued persistence and unforgiving dedication to the expectations, we were able to produce a product that stands out with a perfect balance of salty, smoky and tangy with just the right pop of spice.

 You’ve said that understanding consumer trends is mostly what they don’t want from plant-based foods. What is your advice for plant-based manufacturers and processors in terms of R&D for a plant-based product?

Get consumer feedback on everything you do. They are looking for products that are delicious and nutritious. Something just “average” isn’t going to make it in the marketplace today.  Our goal is to produce an award-winning product every time we go into R&D.

Last year you spoke at the World Plant-Based Expo – tell us a little about your topic and what type of feedback you received? 

The topic was “The Path to Profitability” and the feedback was strongly supportive of the insight into the challenges of being profitable in today’s marketplace. Most agreed that retail sales were the most expensive venture to pursue and not likely to produce a positive monthly P&L statement. Combining sales in retail, foodservice and industrial/private label can balance and stabilize shortfalls to produce a positive outcome and eventual profitability.

As a plant-based food manufacturer, how do you decide which B2B opportunities are worth pursuing? 

We are open to most opportunities that use our current inventoried products. This provides minimal risk to us other than increasing our normal production for the required product(s), as needed. If a custom formula is required, then we will evaluate the opportunity at a deeper level. Minimum volume and a commitment to the product will be required in a mutual partnership agreement. Of course, this all hinges on our ability to produce the product requested at a price that works for both parties.

What do you see on the horizon in 2024 and beyond for the plant-based protein market?

2024 will be another “re-building” year for plant-based meat alternates. I anticipate the second half of the year will produce stronger results than the first half. I think we will see retail sales flatten out with foodservice and eCommerce sales increase comfortably month over month for 2024. As we ease into the latter part of 2024 and into 2025 we will see definite signs of new opportunities and growth in a segment that has been stagnant for the past year plus.