September 30, 2023


Qualified food specialists

How CVS Can Bring Beyond Meat, Healthy Foods to Food Deserts

3 min read
  • CVS is bringing Beyond Meat to 7,000 stores and increasing gluten-free, vegan snacks and foods.
  • CVS, which has more US stores than Walmart and Kroger combined, could better serve “food deserts.”
  • “CVS is ubiquitous in neighborhoods and communities across America,” Beyond Meat told Insider.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

CVS is bringing healthy foods and meat-alternatives to communities across America.

The pharmacy chain and Beyond Meat just announced a partnership that would bring meat-alternative burgers and meatballs to 7,000 stores nationwide. CVS will also add 60 new “better for you” snacks and 50 new frozen foods that are vegan, organic, gluten-free, plant based, and zero-sugar-added.

Now valued at $8.7 billion, Beyond Meat became the first plant-based meat-substitute company to go public just two years ago. The company has continued to expand by partnering with McDonald’s and Taco Bell, as traditional meat seller Tyson rushes to catch up with its own plant-based line. 

The deal may suggest Beyond Meat decreasing its reliance on foodservice. Foodservice sales through restaurants that sell Beyond Meat, including Carl’s Jr. and BurgerFi, dropped 31% year-over-year in 2020, CEO Ethan Brown said on a recent earnings call.

Revenue from retail, however, increased by 108% between 2019 and 2020, but Brown said the trend will drop in 2021 as the pandemic subsides. “We’ve got a lot of room still to grow in retail,” Brown said.

The CVS partnership, which represented the first pharmacy Beyond Meat sold at, could be its first step into retail growth.

“CVS is ubiquitous in neighborhoods and communities across America, and Beyond Meat is proud to partner with them as our first pharmacy partner to bring increased choice and access to nutritious food options to their consumers,” a Beyond Meat spokesperson told Insider. “The addition of the Beyond Burger and Beyond Meatballs at CVS aligns with CVS’ larger effort to help its millions of customers make healthier choices.”

How bringing Beyond Meat to CVS could bring meat-alternatives to food deserts.

CVS sells more groceries than Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, the Guardian reported, due to the store’s prevalence in low-income areas that don’t have access to high-end grocery stores.

CVS has nearly 10,000 locations in the US, D.C., and Puerto Rico. Kroger, the company’s largest supermarket, has just 2,750 locations. Walmart, the country’s largest retailer, has 5,342 stores as of January 2021 — meaning CVS has more stores than Kroger and Walmart combined.

The lack of quality grocery stores in disproportionately low-income areas result in “food deserts,” or areas more than a mile from fresh produce-sellers that rely more on processed and pre-packaged food.

Diets that limit processed foods and sugary beverages are associated with higher life expectancy. But there’s twice as many supermarkets carrying fresh produce in higher-income areas than lower-income ones, per non-profit World of Vegan, and just 2% of meat alternatives are available in low-income areas.

Independent nutritionists told Insider’s Aria Bendix and other outlets Beyond Meat burgers are processed and have roughly similar calories to beef patties. Beyond Meat maintains its products are less caloric.

But nutritionists said Beyond Meat burgers are high in fiber and protein, and can provide a better alternative to red meat. Beyond Meat can also lead to fewer instances of food poisoning than when consuming beef.

Bringing Beyond Meat and other “better for you” snack options to CVS locations might lessen the reliance on junk food in “food deserts.” Better access to nutritional food would be most beneficial to Black and Latino Americans, whose communities have fewer supermarkets than their white counterparts, per Johns Hopkins.

“The expanded assortment of food items is the latest way we serve as a premier health and wellness destination, making it easier for millions of customers to access healthier choices and meal solutions without having to make extra trips to specialty and grocery stores,” a CVS spokesperson said in a statement.

This story has been updated to add Beyond Meat’s claim its burgers are less caloric than beef patties.

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