A new sausage product hitting the area is flying off supermarket shelves almost as quickly as you can spell out barbecue.
Like other brats on the market, it sizzles. It's spicy. It's juicy with a casing that crisps right up when you cook it. And it's 100 percent vegan.
Beyond Meat began rolling out its plant-based sausage at Whole Foods Market stores nationwide this month; a little over two weeks ago, it hit the shelves of both Whole Foods' South Street and Pennsylvania Avenue locations in Philly, as well as other regional stores like Plymouth Meeting, Wynnewood, and Cherry Hill.
"It looks very similar to meat sausages," said Chavonne Stuhlemmer, a vegan of less than one year who managed to snag a pack at the Whole Foods in Fairmount. "My husband still eats meat and dairy, so we struggle to find meals that work for both of us, but he tried one and loved it — even gave me the green light to use it in dishes for him in place of meat."
The sausages come in three flavors — original, sweet Italian and hot Italian — all of which employees at both Philly locations report are selling out upon arrival within a single day. With initial demand higher than expected, currently both stores are on a stocking hiatus as the Whole Foods' regional warehouse awaits a new shipment.
At the start, Beyond Meat grew hype through its "bleeding" burger, which helped the company instill a name for itself within the food industry. The company strives to create plant-based replicas of meat products that could fool even the most diehard omnivore. Like the beet juice that enabled its burger patties to "bleed," Beyond Meat's sausages also take on a shade of pink with the help of ruby red beets. When raw, the links look strikingly similar to pork counterparts.
"It tastes close to a turkey sausage with very flavorful Italian spices," said Stuhlemmer, adding that the texture holds a chewiness similar to meat. "I tried the hot Italian, which had a little kick but was not as hot as I had hoped."
The sausages are made primarily from pea protein, as well as proteins from fava beans and rice, wrapped in a casing based from algae. Each also contains coconut oil, which recreates the appearance of fat globules when you cut into the center. This is designed to create a variation in texture more akin to that found in meat, vs. the uniform denseness that other plant-based sausages on the market, largely derived from soy and seitan, often take on.
Launched originally in restaurants, the product gained a following, particularly within the vegan community. Now that it's available at retail, however, the product's price has come as a shock to many: A single pack of four sausages is $8.99.
"That price is Beyond Ridiculous," joked a member of the Vegan City Philadelphia Facebook group.
Still, shelling out $2.25 per sausage doesn't appear to be deterring too many buyers.
"When we first launched the Beyond Meat Burger in our Boulder, Colo., store in 2016, the burgers sold out in just one hour," said Rachael Wilson, Whole Foods' public relations representative for the mid-Atlantic and south. "We are thrilled customers are responding similarly to Beyond Sausage. While we're regularly restocking the product in our Philadelphia-area stores, due to its popularity, it's selling out quickly."