Ever wanted to be vegetarian but love the taste of meat? The solution may already be in stores.

US company Beyond Meat has spent more than five years developing plant protein products that look, smell and taste like meat, products which are now available in whole foods supermarkets in the US and in some stores in Hong Kong.

With the company planning to focus on export markets next year, New Zealand may be on the cards.

According to executive chairman of Beyond Meat, Seth Goldman, just 5 per cent of the US population was vegetarian or vegan and despite growing talk about the food choice, this number had stayed the same for years.


"In the US, the per cent of the dairy category that's plant based is now 14 per cent which is really very high," Goldman said.

"The percentage of the meat section that is plant based is less than 1 per cent. And in my opinion it's because the options are so much worse.

"If you can make products that are at parity or better [without meat] and with some advantages, I think we can get that to 14 per cent."

Since going to market at the end of last year, the company's products are now stocked in 400 stores, several veggie burger outlets and Yale University, as well as several Hong Kong outlets.

Goldman, who is in New Zealand with the Institute of Directors speaking at its annual Leadership Conference, said Beyond Meat was targeting hundreds more outlets in the coming months before looking at wider export markets next year.

He said the company's goal wasn't to try to get more people to become vegetarian, but to provide more environmentally friendly options for people wanting to eat less meat.

"We don't call it a hamburger because it's different but it is as satisfying as a burger - but with no cholesterol," Goldman said.

"So the same nutrition, same protein, same iron, just much lighter environmentally. So no cholesterol, no dead animal and no environmental footprint."

Beyond Meat executive chairman Seth Goldman. Photo/supplied
Beyond Meat executive chairman Seth Goldman. Photo/supplied

The company's Beyond Burger patties are made mainly from yellow peas, with coconut oil, canola oil, bamboo fibre, and beetroot juice which gives it a meat colour.

With the product already available in some stores and supermarkets in Hong Kong, the meat-alternative may be headed to New Zealand.

"It just depends on how quickly we can roll this out. We're looking at [further] export markets next year," Goldman said.

"We've already had to expand our production capacity - a year ago we weren't able to keep up."