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H-E-B’s Central Market Opens First Meatless Butcher Counter in Austin, TX

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Central Market, a fine foods retailer owned by Texas grocery chain H-E-B, has opened a dedicated Meatless Butcher counter in its Austin, TX store. Located in the produce department, the traditionally-designed counter features a large variety of plant-based meats, including chicken and beef fajitas, kabobs, chicken wings, pepperoni and brisket. 

“Great value as a differentiator”

The new installation makes Central Market one of the first US grocery chains to offer such a meatless counter. Phil Myers, Central Market’s Director of Food Service, says the chain wanted to meet demand for plant-based meat options while upholding its reputation as “a destination for things that you can’t find elsewhere, and especially things that we make”, Myers told San Antonio Express-News. 

Among the many proteins offered, Meatless Butcher sells chicken wings made with seitan, tofu and vegan chicken stock as well as brisket – a Texas BBQ favorite made from jackfruit, vegan beef stock, vegan Worcestershire, soy sauce and spices. Customers can also choose meatless marinated chicken breast, chorizo and pepperoni. 

Central Market Meatless Kabobs
©Central Market

Planting an idea

According to Myers, the chain spent two-and-a-half years planning out the concept and recipes. As part of the research, the company sampled popular brands like Morningstar Farms and consulted with other “meatless butcher” services, such as the Hiltl restaurant in Zurich, Switzerland. 

Pending the concept’s success, Myers states it could potentially be expanded on a much larger scale.

“We see it as a great value to us as a differentiator, but also we as Central Market want to be the sort of innovation portal for H-E-B, right?” he said. “Everybody at H-E-B will be looking at this and saying, ‘What do we do with that? Do we bring it into H-E-B at some point? Do we bring it into our own brands?’”

Central Market Storefrony
©Central Market

Myers adds the concept has already achieved successful sales and garnered a lot of attention online.

“Right now, we’re absolutely still in the learning mode,” he said. With regards to expansion, he notes: “I probably want to get more than a week of sales, but we’re excited about the possibility of taking it to other stores.”

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