LOS ANGELES – Beyond Meat, a leading manufacturer of plant-based proteins, officially opened the company’s new 26,000-sq.-ft. research and development center at the company’s headquarters.

The company’s “Manhattan Beach Project” is seven times the size of the existing facility and is designed to support the scientists, engineers, food technologists, chefs and managers tasked with iterating Beyond Meat products “…until they are indistinguishable from their animal protein equivalent,” the company said.

The Beyond Meat innovation center emphasizes consumer engagement.The center is divided into eight distinct laboratories and footprints with an emphasis on consumer engagement, according to the company. The Manhattan Beach Project also includes a test kitchen that will host chefs and culinary experts and a formal sensory lab for consumer tasting and product testing of its plant-based protein products.

“The use of science and technology to build meat directly from plants, coupled with a commitment to all natural and non-GMO ingredients, is the core of our company. At Beyond Meat, we strive to understand meat at new levels, and then rebuild it using amino acids, lipids and minerals from plants. What the animal has done throughout history — organize plant material in the form of muscle or meat — we believe we can do more efficiently to the benefit of human health, the environment and animal welfare,” said Ethan Brown, Beyond Meat CEO and founder.

Beyond Meat also is expanding its Columbia, Missouri, production facility from 30,000 sq. ft. to 100,000 sq. ft. to accommodate growing demand for the company’s plant-based products. Beyond Meat expects to generate more than 250 new jobs in 2018. Beyond Meat’s existing Missouri facility houses more than 200 employees.

The company expects to create 50 new jobs over the next year at the Manhattan Beach Project facility. Beyond Meat is working with universities and research centers to identify and recruit talent to work at the facility.

(From left): Seth Goldman, executive chairman of Beyond Meat, co-founder of Honest Tea; CEO Ethan Brown,; Drew Boyles, Mayor of El Segundo; Dallas Mavericks center DeAndre Jordan; DeAndre Hopkins, Houston Texans wide receiver; Carol Pirsztuk, Mayor Pro Tem; and Dr. Dariush Ajami, vice president, R&D at Beyond Meat (Source: Business Wire).

“The path to the perfect build of meat from plants is both long and steep, but with every iteration we are getting closer and closer,” Brown Said. “I am so pleased to join our special group of scientists, engineers, chefs and managers in announcing the opening of our new state-of-the-art innovation center.”

Beyond Meat is the maker of the Beyond Burger, which the company says looks, cooks and tastes like ground beef from cows but is made from plants. The company already has distribution to 27,000 grocery stores and restaurants in the US.

Recent new investors in the company include NFL wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who attended the July 19 ribbon cutting.

“Beyond Meat’s products are a game-changer and I’m honored to be here today as we mark this important milestone in the company’s history,” Hopkins said. He joins a growing list of professional athletes who are backing Beyond Meat, including former NFL tight end, Tony Gonzales.