Advocacy group takes plant-based meat fight to Super Bowl in ad

NEW YORK (Reuters) - An advocacy group backed by the food and restaurant industries took the heated plant-based meat fight to the Super Bowl on Sunday in an advertisement, as consumer hunger for red meat alternatives rages on.

The advertisement, which ran only in the Washington DC market, was aimed at plant-based meat producers such as Impossible Foods Inc, maker of the plant-based Impossible Burger, and Beyond Meat Inc, by the Center for Consumer Freedom.

The Center for Consumer Freedom bills itself on its website as “a nonprofit organization devoted to promoting personal responsibility and protecting consumer choices.”

The ad features a young girl in a spelling bee, who is asked to spell “methylcellulose.” When she asks for a definition, the judge says it is a chemical laxative that is also used in synthetic meat.

“You might need a PhD to understand what’s in synthetic meat,” the voice of a female narrator says. “Fake bacon and burgers can have dozens of chemical ingredients. If you can’t spell it or pronounce it, maybe you shouldn’t be eating it.”

An Impossible Foods spokeswoman called the ad “disingenuous, misleading and shameless disinformation.”

The global meat substitutes market generated revenue of $4.2 billion in 2018, and is expected to be worth $6.1 billion by 2023, as more consumers convert to veganism or cut down on consumption of red meat, according to a report by Research on Global Markets.

“Beyond Meat distinguishes itself by offering products made with simple plant-based ingredients - without GMOs or artificially produced ingredients,” a Beyond Meat spokeswoman said.

Reporting by Melissa Fares in New York; Additional reporting by Andrea Shalal in Washington DC