Early last week Rachel Konrad, the Chief Communications Officer for Impossible Foods, published a fiery rebuttal against Mom’s Across America (MAA)‘s recent article that stated Impossible Burger tests 11 times higher for Glyphosate weed killer than Beyond Meat burgers. Impossible’s clap-back was impassioned, to say the least; Konrad used the words “charlatans” and “quackery,” among others.
MAA is a vocal opponent to GMOs and is against Impossible’s use of genetic engineering to make heme, the ingredient that gives the plant-based burgers their bloody taste and hue. Claims about weed killer are questionable at best, and the whole post (and Konrad’s response) is arguably something of a footnote in the grand scheme of plant-based meat. However, both highlight an important point: Impossible Foods, Beyond Meat and other alt-protein companies will have to prepare themselves for a lot more of these sort of attacks in the coming months and years.
Both companies have enjoyed relatively little pushback up until this point. They’ve been getting glowing publicity, locking down buzzy new fast food partnerships, and Beyond blew past already high expectations with their wildly successful IPO.
However, as these companies become more successful, they compete with bigger and bigger players. In the future, Impossible and Beyond will have to look out for attacks from organizations with a lot more reach and funding than MAA.
Big Beef, for one, has made it quite clear they don’t approve of companies branding plant-based products as “meat.” Organizations like the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association or the National Chicken Council have even tried to ban vegetarian burgers, sausages and the like from using the word “meat” on their labels.
In some ways, Big Meat’s reaction is unsurprising. Plant-based options for dairy and meat are projected to take over 10 percent of the $1.4 trillion global meat industry over the next decade. That’s a lot of pressure for Big Meat to live up to, and not all of those companies are going to pull a Tyson or a Cargill and invest in their own disruption.
It’s not hard to guess traditional meat companies’ lines of attack. They’ll likely frame plant-based meat as “unnatural,” “unhealthy,” and full of suspect ingredients. In short: fake news — er, meat.
So far, it seems like Impossible has come out swinging — perhaps a little too hard, at least in the case of Konrad’s Medium post. Hopefully Impossible and friends can find a sustainable way to deal with the quackery from Big Meat and their friends, because it’s not going anywhere anytime soon.