There is a trope in economics about a product or technology getting to a “China price” or an “India price.” The idea being that it is one thing for a product or technology to be affordable to American or European consumers, but to be truly transformative something needs to be affordable to the billions of consumers in China and India.
Like most popularized economic wisdom this is a little simplistic and overlooks much of the nuance that makes a product or technology transformative. However, there might just be a corollary for meatless hamburgers. I propose the “Aldi price.”
Flipping through the weekly flyer that comes in the mail while I waited for my daughter to finish her weekly piano lesson I saw several meatless foods advertised in the Aldi flyer. Normally, I do not shop at Aldi. It has little to do with the offerings and more to do with the fact that I just don’t seem to understand shopping at Aldi. From the quarter deposit for a cart, the odd way the store seems structured, and so on. It is just not my bag.
However, for approximately $3 I was able to buy a package of four meatless burgers under the Earth Grown label:
This is half the price of what a Beyond Burger goes for in the grocery stores around here. Heck, you cannot even buy the Impossible Burger for home consumption anywhere yet. On a per ounce price basis the Aldi Earth Grown meatless burger is cheaper than decent ground beef. At this price there can be little argument that a meatless burger is both an economic and environmental winner. At the “Aldi price” a meatless burger is a burger that anyone can afford.
The question remains, does anyone really want an Aldi meatless burger:
There is a definite disconnect between what is shown on the box and what comes out of the box. I would guess that the patties—which come four to a box—are about half the thickness of the patty shown on the box. Furthermore, the texture is less ground beef analog—which is what the Beyond Burger and Impossible Burger are going for—and more improved veggie burger. This is an improvement on the lifeless Boca patties of your late 1990s backyard party. This is not, however, a patty that will sit in the uncanny valley between actual hamburger and veggie burger.
It is amazing that we have come to a time and place regarding meatless hamburgers where we are arguing if the product is enough like actual hamburger versus is the product barely edible. For anyone who soldiered through eating crumbly black bean patties or bizarre quinoa creations in the early aughts this is a revelation.