Long Live MorningStar Farms

Kellogg’s has chosen to keep Morningstar Farms in its portfolio, despite fake meat's troubles.

If you can't handle pea protein at its worst, you don't deserve it at its best. Food Business News reports that the Kellogg Company has chosen to stick by MorningStar Farms, its alternative meat label, even at a time when plant-based meat's role in the American diet (and its placement in grocery stores) remains uncertain as ever.

In June of 2022, Kellogg's announced plans to divide and conquer by splitting up its business into three separate companies: snacks, cereals, and plant-based products. The intention behind this plan was to better focus its efforts behind each category and thus increase overall sales. However, the original plan has changed slightly in that Kellogg now plans to place MorningStar Farms in the same snack-focused category as brands like Pringles, Cheez-Its, Pop-Tarts, and Rice Krispies Treats. Would you expect to see all these products together in the grocery store?

It's hard to say which part of this approach is more notable: that Kellogg's is categorizing frozen plant-based meats as a "snack," or that the company is holding out hope that MorningStar will overcome the current challenges of the alternative meat category, given that Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat both experienced layoffs at the end of 2022 and overall supermarket sales of meatless products have been on the decline in recent months.

Kellogg's CEO Steve Cahillane seems confident in MorningStar Farms' ability to make it through the worst of plant-based meat's struggles. During a recent conference call to discuss the company's 2022 earnings, he commented on the changing industry and predicted that the MorningStar brand would outlast others in the same space.

"It's happening already," Cahillane said. "And there'll be a couple of players left standing, and MorningStar Farms still has some of the highest household penetration, highest name recognition, fantastic foods, strong in the freezer space where the consumer is migrating back to, and profitable, unlike many of the peers. So, as we step back and look at it, we are the best parent for MorningStar Farms."

One advantage for MorningStar Farms is that, unlike the trendy startups it's competing against, it already has a large portfolio with a variety of products, including burgers, sausage patties, bacon strips, sausage links, chik'N nuggets and patties, corn dogs, veggie dogs, and various appetizers like pizza bites and nacho bites. As a consumer, it's easier to reach for these items than Impossible or Beyond products, the latter of which are more limited to a lineup of ground "meat," sausages, and patties, all at a significantly higher price. And while the newer brands might be better at imitating meat, that's not always what vegetarians and vegans are looking for.

To Cahillane's point, MorningStar Farms has managed to grow steadily and remain profitable since it was acquired by Kellogg's in 2003. Food Navigator reports MorningStar had an estimated $304 million net sales in 2021. It's a good tortoise-and-hare reminder that the buzziest brands might come and go, but the stalwarts win the day.