Food & Beverage Insider’s plant-based digital magazine debuts soon, but we wanted to offer you a sneak-preview treat with this trending story on one of this year’s newest sensations—Skinny Butcher’s line of Crazy Crispy Chick’n products. It also serves as a great primer to get you ready for the upcoming Plant-Based Food Technology and Future Growth educational session at SupplySide West. The event occurs Oct. 31-Nov. 4 at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.
In July, Skinny Butcher’s plant-based chicken nuggets brought in 2.3 times the dollar sales of the second-fastest selling item at Walmart stores, the company reported based on sales data provided by IRI, a global technology, analytics and data provider. Plus, its line of Crazy Crispy Chick'n products was the third most popular frozen poultry substitute item in the United States.
Plant-based meat alternatives have seen massive surges in popularity in recent years. In fact, sales of plant-based meat alternatives outpaced meat sales nearly three-fold over the past three years with 74% growth in sales. In 2021, the plant-based meat category reached sales of $1.4 billion.
Skinny Butcher’s products were first launched in retail stores at Walmart in May. In June, Skinny Butcher products hit freezers in Costco stores in the Midwest and northern California, and in more than 1,000 Safeway stores.
Branding may also play a role in the company’s success. The initial Walmart launch included products that were co-branded with the popular Netflix series, “Stranger Things.”
Nevertheless, taste is king—and a well-known hurdle for plant-based alternatives. In fact, taste is the top barrier cited by people who don’t make plant-based meat selections; almost a third (29%) of non-plant-based meat eaters pass on plant-based options because they don’t enjoy the taste. While that number has decreased since 2021 (from 32% of non-plant-based meat eaters), the data indicates opportunity to strengthen the category by improving taste and texture of plant-based alternatives.
Skinny Butcher products boast an improved meat-like texture that’s achieved by using a progressive fiber strain. Pea protein, a proprietary spice blend and a double-breading method are also employed to create a meat-like taste and texture.
These attributes, per Skinny Butcher CEO Dave Zilko, make the product more accessible to families who need products that can be easily adopted by people of all ages and taste preferences. “Our mission was to introduce a plant-based chicken line in which families did not have to make any sacrifice whatsoever with respect to animal protein comparables,” Zilko said in a press release. “In fact, feedback we're receiving strongly suggests consumers prefer Skinny Butcher to animal protein items."
Skinny Butcher was developed by the former partners of Garden Fresh Gourmet, maker of gourmet salsas, hummus and dips, among other food items, and are manufactured by Los Angeles-based Golden West Food Group, a manufacturer and distributor of premium food products. Garden Fresh Gourmet was sold to Campbell's Soup Company for $231 million in 2015.