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Anyone who follows the alternative meat space even a little knows that last week Impossible Foods unveiled its latest product — plant-based ground pork — at CES 2020.
You can read our post (including a taste test) on the event here. But during the ensuing press conference with Impossible CEO Pat Brown, several interesting tidbits about Impossible’s strategy — regarding R&D, expansion, mission, and more — came to light. Here are some of the most intriguing plant-based nuggets from the evening:
Impossible goes international
“International markets, as they grow, will be a very important part of our future,” Brown told the crowd at CES.
One market in particular: China. Brown has already stated that Asia — and China specifically — is a major area of focus for the company. And how could it not be? After all, China is the world’s largest consumer of meat and is struggling as the African Swine Fever is causing pork prices to skyrocket.
The scene is set for plant-based pork to make its move, but Impossible isn’t the only one making its move. Omnipork, based in Hong Kong, just began selling its plant-based pork on the mainland, including in several Taco Bells.
I’ve tried both Omnipork and Impossible Pork and have to say that I preferred the Impossible version; it was juicier and fattier with a bit more flavor. However, Omnipork’s alt-pork was developed specifically to the tastes of Asian consumers, which could give it an edge over Impossible when both begin selling in China.
That said, with a population of 1.4 billion and the African Swine Flu still looming, there’s ample opportunity for multiple plant-based pork options to court Chinese audiences. (Beyond Meat, time to make your move.)
Last year at CES Brown told us in an interview that next up the company would develop “whole cuts of meat,” AKA steak.
I’m sure Impossible scientists are hard at work on that right now, but steak ain’t all they’re making. “If it’s a food that comes from animals today you can be sure that people on our R&D team are working on a more delicious, healthier, and vastly more sustainable plant-based alternative,” Brown said during the Impossible Pork conference this year.
He mentioned steak, fish, and, a crowd favorite, bacon. “We’ve already played around with it,” Brown said. But he added that they wouldn’t release a product until it was so good that even “the most hardcore bacon worshipper thinks it’s awesomely delicious.”
Considering that bacon presents a much harder textural challenge than ground meat, like beef and pork, that could be a while. Especially since bacon requires differing strips of meat and fat, which cook to distinct textures. But once they do achieve it — and considering their massive warchest and heavy R&D focus, I really think they will — Brown mentioned another first for the company: “the world’s first kosher bacon cheeseburger.”
Brown has often repeated Impossible’s lofty and very ambitious mission: to make animal agriculture as food production technology obsolete by 2035. The company is trying to do that by replacing animal meat with plant-based in flexitarians’ diets. “A sale for us only counts if it comes at the expense of the animal-based food production industry,” Brown said at the press conference last week.
There’s no question that Impossible is selling a significant amount of its plant-based meat; it’s available at over 15,000 restaurants globally, including more 7,000 Burger Kings (some of which will soon begin selling Croissan’wiches made with Impossible pork sausage). It’s also sold in retailers in eight regions.
But does Impossible’s rise actually take away from meat sales? Sure, if a flexitarian decides to buy an Impossible burger instead of a beef one, that’s one less burger consumed at that juncture.
However, meat consumption is at an all-time high and projected to rise, especially in developing nations (where, admittedly, plant-based meat is not widely available). In short: just because consumers are demanding more plant-based options doesn’t mean they are necessarily using them to replace meat. We don’t have the data on how rolling out Impossible Whoppers impacted Burger King’s beef sales, but it’s something to keep an eye on.
As the dangers of climate change loom, it’s hard not to root for solutions, like Impossible’s, that can reduce our environmental impact — especially if they taste d**n good. But the statistics are daunting. If Impossible has a prayer of achieving its goal by 2035, it’ll have to double down on production capacity and keep forging new retail & foodservice partnerships, especially in fast food.
And get to work on making bacon, stat.
Protein ’round the web
– Nestlé-owned Sweet Earth Foods, maker of the plant-based Awesome burger, has announced its inaugural national restaurant partner: Ruby Tuesday.
– Select Tim Horton’s locations in the U.K. will begin selling sandwiches made with meatless sausage from company Moving Mountains (h/t VegNews).
– This, a U.K. startup that makes plant-based chicken and pork (including bacon), just raised £4.7 million ($6 million) in seed funding (via Agfunder News).
– Good Catch Foods, maker of plant-based seafood including fish-free tuna, announced its $32 million Series B.
Finally, if you live near a Dunkin’ and do not care about your arteries, you might want to try the new ‘Beyond D-O-Double-G Sandwich,’ which consists of a Beyond sausage patty, egg, and cheese served on a sliced glazed donut. Then please tell me how it tastes so I can live vicariously through you.