MINNEAPOLIS – Cargill is the latest meat processor to join the alternative meat arena with the Feb. 24 announcement that the company will offer plant-based proteins to retail and foodservice customers as well as a private-label options beginning in April.

The plant-based ground and patty products will be made in existing Cargill facilities based on research and development by its culinary insight team and consumer research. Production of the products has already begun at Cargill’s processing plant in Waco, Texas, said a spokesman, adding that the company will be looking at its global footprint as production ramps up.

“We’ve combined our deep knowledge of plant proteins with our expertise in R&D, product development and production to deliver products consumers will love,” said Elizabeth Gutschenritter, managing director of Cargill’s alternative protein team. “We’ve created some of the best tasting products available in the plant-based category today.”

Company officials said Cargill has made significant, strategic investments in alternative protein production in addition to its commitment of more than $7 billion toward animal protein in the past five years. This past August, Cargill invested $75 million in Puris, a pea protein ingredient supplier. Officials say the launch is part of Cargill’s ongoing strategy to meet demand for protein across the globe, which is expected to increase by 70 percent in the next three decades.

Gutschenritter said, “Producing plant-based products across our global supply chain is the logical next step to expanding our ability to meet consumer needs and bring new value to this category.”

Cargill joins a growing number of traditional meat processors to offer plant-based options, including, Tyson Foods Inc., Hormel Foods Corp., Perdue Farms and Smithfield Foods. Not unlike many of its industry counterparts, Cargill sees the addition of plant-based foods as a necessary option for diners and retail shoppers.

“We need to keep all protein options on the table,” said Brian Sikes, Cargill’s leader of its global protein and salt business. “Whether you are eating alternative or animal protein, Cargill will be at the center of the plate.”