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Perdue Foods dips its chicken into sprouting plant-based foods biz

  • Perdue Foods is touting a line of products that blend chicken and vegetables as a way to get Americans to eat more veggies. 
  • The poultry producer said its new line is coming to retailers nationwide in September, and the products will mix cauliflower and chickpeas into chicken nuggets, tenders and patties.
  • More Americans are consuming meat substitutes, a trend that has fueled the rise of companies like Impossible Burger and Beyond Meat.

Perdue Foods thinks it has a way getting kids to eat their veggies: combine them with chicken nuggets. The company is introducing a new product, to be introduced in stores this fall, that blends cauliflower and chickpeas with dinosaur-shaped, panko-covered pieces of chicken. 

Perdue wants to "help parents put an end to the 'eat your vegetables' battle," Eric Christianson, chief marketing officer for Perdue, said in a release. "By blending plants and vegetables with the Perdue chicken families love, not only are we helping to meet demands for millions of parents, but we are appealing to the growing number of flexitarian families who have an increased commitment to getting more plants and vegetables in their families' diets."

Perdue Foods is a unit of Perdue Farms, a privately held producer of chicken, turkey, pork, and other food and agricultural products.

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People who keep so-called flexitarian diets mostly eat vegetables, but sometimes eat meat or fish. The new product also represents Perdue's first foray into plant-based food, a trend that's fueled the rise of companies such as Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat, makers of meat alternatives that mimic burgers made of beef. 

The Good Food Institute, a non-profit that advocates for plant- and cell-based meat, eggs and diary, applauded Perdue's move into plant-based food. "This is just the beginning. If the market responds as we anticipate, this could pave the way for the introduction of a fully plant-based product," Alison Rabschnuk, the group's director of corporate engagement, said in a statement.

The institute cited data from Nielsen showing that retail sales of plant-based meat grew 23% percent last year and topped $760 million, while total U.S. retail food sales grew just 2%.

Perdue is "still evaluating" developing other possible plant-based products, a company spokeswoman told CBS MoneyWatch by email. 

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Like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat, Perdue's new line isn't aimed at vegetarians or vegans, but rather at the broader market of Americans looking to cut back on their meat consumption.

The Perdue spokesperson cited research that found that between 11% and 33% of Americans want to eat more plants and vegetables while continuing to consume meat. "Since we know chicken best, we decided to enter the market with a blended product," she said.

Beyond the nuggets geared for children, Perdue will also have patties and tenders that blend chicken and vegetables on grocery shelves in September. 

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