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Ladies and gentlemen, mark your calendars. At the time of writing, Impossible Foods is heading into retail in 7 days, 23 hours, 43 minutes and 16 seconds. 15 seconds. 14 seconds.
Obviously we’re excited. We’ve been big fans of Impossible’s “bleeding” burgers for a while now and have been anticipating the retail launch ever since the company first teased the news back in November of last year.
- We know their first product will be a 12-ounce ground beef-like product, similar to Beyond Beef.
- We know it will debut in a city that “smells like palm trees.”
My first question is, what do palm trees smell like?? My second question is, is the tweet referring to Miami or LA? My money is on LA because of its trend-setting cred and abundance of celebrities, but my colleague Chris Albrecht is placing his bet on Miami because of its reputation as a center for testing out retail innovation.
Really though, it doesn’t matter where Impossible first launches in retail. Unless there’s some sort of catastrophe it’ll eventually roll out in grocery stores around the country. What’s more interesting is what product Impossible has chosen to launch with: a 12-ounce package of ground plant-based meat.
Honestly, I think this move makes a lot of sense. By launching with fresh ground “meat,” Impossible has to jostle with far fewer competitors to stand out in the refrigerated grocery aisle, which is becoming crowded with plant-based burgers. As of now its only really going up against Beyond Beef (which, admittedly, is pretty delicious) and Hormel, who just debuted a vegan ground meat product last week.
Starting with a ground product is also an opportunity for Impossible to show off its versatility. Thus far, the vast majority of Impossible’s restaurant partners have served the alterna-meat in burger form (the notable exceptions being Qdoba and Little Ceasars). This first product is Impossible’s way of saying “Don’t pigeonhole us!”
The flip side of that strategy is that as of now, the vast majority of consumers associate Impossible with burgers. They might not think to look for a ground Impossible product in retail, or they might not want to do the work of forming the patties themselves.
Then again, I doubt they’ll have to wait too long before Impossible follows up with a pre-formed burger product. Though it’ll certainly be longer than 7 days, 23 hours, 42 minutes and 49 seconds.
3D printing money
When I first heard about startups 3D printing plant-based meat, I thought it was a cool, futuristic-sounding technology that would likely never be affordable or practical enough to actually scale up.
It seems I might have been a little too hasty. In the past week two companies which 3D print meat alternatives have snagged funding: first Novameat announced an undisclosed amount of funding at the Good Food Conference last week, then Redefine Meat followed up yesterday when news broke that it had raised a $6 million seed round.
The two startups have a similar go-to-market strategy. Both companies are planning to sell/rent their machine and corresponding plant protein pods to third parties — Novameat to high-end restaurants and Redefine Meat to large meat companies looking to diversify their offerings. And they’re both based in Europe! Novameat in Spain and Redefine Meat in Israel.
Clearly there’s something to this whole 3D printing plant-based meat thing — or at least investors think so.
Much ado about processed food
This week WIRED writer Matt Simon published a fascinating dive into why people are making such a fuss about the processing it takes to make plant-based meats.
In the piece he notes that yes, buzzed-about plant-based products like Impossible and Beyond are highly processed. But so are a lot of other staple things we eat, like yogurt, beer and bread.
I think you can also flip the processing question on its head. Plant-based meats are alternatives to meat sourced from animals. And isn’t animal meat one of the most processed foods of all? Animals themselves process plants into muscle, then are butchered to become hamburgers, steaks, or what have you. Comparatively, growing some heme through genetically engineered yeast or pushing pea protein through an extruder to mimic the texture of chicken seems relatively low-key.
In short, processing does not always equal bad. Especially when the choice is between a plant-based burger and industrially farmed meat.
Protein ’round the web
- According to a press release sent to the Spoon, starting next week, Le Pain Quotidien will sell frittatas in select locations made with JUST’s plant-based eggs.
- Kroger announced it would try putting a plant-based meat section in their refrigerated meat aisle just a week after news broke the retail giant would launch its own line of meat and dairy alternatives.
- Ento, the Malaysian startup which farms insects and makes edible cricket powder, has secured a seed round (h/t AgFunder News).
- My colleague Chris Albrecht tried out Perdue’s new blended meat + veggie nuggets and they fooled his 8-year-old!
That’s it from me! I’ll be off next week exploring the Alaskan wilderness so one of my lovely Spoon colleagues will be taking the Future Food reigns in my stead.