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The chef behind the Beyond Burger explains why binging on gas station chips inspired him to create healthier plant-based snacks

Summary List Placement From his early days as a Los Angeles restaurateur to leading product development at Beyond Meat, Dave Anderson has devoted his career to fine dining and food science. But while driving to and from business meetings, he would often turn to a less sophisticated food source for a...

Dave Anderson Outstanding Foods

Summary List Placement

From his early days as a Los Angeles restaurateur to leading product development at Beyond Meat, Dave Anderson has devoted his career to fine dining and food science.

But while driving to and from business meetings, he would often turn to a less sophisticated food source for a quick lunch.

“Oftentimes, I would find myself stopping at a gas station and just desperately being hungry and having just a little bit, maybe 20, 30 minutes, until the next meeting,” he said.

Anderson would reach for a large bag of potato chips, making a promise to himself that he’d just eat a few before promptly breaking his word.

“Before I know it, I’ve eaten the whole bag,” he said. “It’s 1200 calories, there’s no nutrients.” 

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Anderson said unhealthy lunches like those led him to consider creating plant-based snacks, especially ones that were more nutritious than conventional options. As cofounder of startup Outstanding Foods, Anderson has developed TakeOut snack puffs, three-ounce bags of which contain one-third of recommended daily quantities of multiple nutrients including iron and calcium that can function as a meal replacement.

Outstanding Foods sells its products, including PigOut plant-based pork rinds, direct-to-consumer business as well as at retail chains like Walmart and Kroger.

Bill Glaser, Outstanding Foods’ CEO and other cofounder, said the company is planning a broader range of plant-based snacks using the methods it perfected making TakeOut and PigOut. The company closed a funding round worth $5 million earlier this year.

TakeOut puffs from Outstanding FoodsAnderson leads the company’s research and development efforts. In addition to leading product development at Beyond Meat, he also cofounded Hampton Creek, now known as plant-based egg maker Eat Just, before launching Outstanding Foods in 2015.

“Dave has a lot of experience creating products that match the taste and texture of what they’re trying to replace,” Glaser said. “Everything we do is focused on making it easier for anyone to eat more healthy and plant-based foods.”

But making snacks that are both nutritious and plant-based was initially a challenge for Outstanding Foods. Early prototypes had all the vitamins, minerals, protein, and other health components but failed a key test.

“One of the things I realized is it’s really easy to make a snack that has all this stuff in it that tastes terrible,” Anderson said. “There’s a reason those things aren’t in there normally.”

The key to creating the right product was finding a formula that had enough starch, which gives Outstanding Foods’ snacks their puff, while keeping as many of the nutrients in them as possible.

“Those ingredients that you’re introducing to fulfill the nutrition end of things are actually working against the science of what makes the snack what it is,” Anderson said. “You’re pulling all these levers, and it’s the back-and-forth seesaw of trying to get the texture, trying to get the flavor, and just trying to balance everything out.”

Anderson and Glaser’s experience points to a challenge a lot of plant-based companies face. Many find it easier and more profitable to work with ingredients that are better for the environment than animal-based analogues, but not necessarily healthier for consumers. Nutritionists have said that products like the Beyond Burger are best consumed occasionally, much like equivalent animal meats.

“I can tell you, straight up, from the early days being involved in these companies, that wasn’t a mindset at that time,” Anderson said about considering the health of the ingredients in the final products. Instead, many were focused solely on creating their burgers, milks, and other plant-based products using whatever methods and ingredients they could get.

But more plant-based companies are starting to care more about health, he said. “We want to keep breaking down these boundaries, but we want things to be cleaner and less processed.”

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