By Craig Giammona

Bloomberg

The next generation of vegan meat includes sausage made from peas, beets and coconut oil. And you can have one with a beer while watching the Yankees play in the Bronx.

Beyond Meat, the plant-based protein company backed by Bill Gates and Tyson Foods Inc., rolled out one of its newest products — vegan bratwurst — at Yankee Stadium this season. And it’s launching the brats, as well as sweet and hot Italian sausages, nationally at Whole Foods.

Sales at the company doubled last year as it expanded its namesake Beyond Burger into thousands of grocery stores, including Safeway, Kroger and Target. The burger, along with its competitor from Impossible Foods, is part of a new generation of vegan meat substitutes that promise to mimic the taste of real ground beef, replete with blood and grill-produced sizzle.

Beyond Burger got its start at Whole Foods, where health-conscious shoppers have long sought out niche vegan products. It’s being sold in the meat case at conventional stores across the United States and is on the menu at thousands of restaurants, including mainstream chains such as TGI Fridays.

Ethan Brown, chief executive officer of the El Segundo, California-based company, said he thinks the plant-based sausage will have similar appeal as more consumers, including high-profile athletes, try to eat less meat.

Beyond Sausage is on the menu at a handful of restaurants in Chicago and New York, and at a Yankee Stadium outpost of restaurant chain Bareburger.

“It’s a massive trend that’s happening and creates a lot of demand,” Brown said.

Vegan eating — once the province of strict dieters and animals-rights activists — has been gaining broader acceptance in recent years, helped by endorsements from celebrities such as Tom Brady, Kyrie Irving and Beyonce. And while still small, the market for vegan meat is growing.

The trend has caught the attention of investors and large U.S. food companies grappling with shifting consumer trends. Beyond Meat drew the attention of Bill Gates and General Mills Inc. after it was founded in 2009 with a focus on frozen chicken substitutes. Tyson Foods, the largest U.S. meat producer, took a stake in 2016 and owns more than 5 percent of the company.

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