The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is known as a time when companies debut cutting-edge technology like drones, robots, and… burgers?
Tonight plant-based meat company Impossible Foods unveiled new recipe for their popular “bleeding” vegan burgers. According to the release from Impossible, the new iteration will be gluten-free, have zero cholesterol, and contain as much iron and protein as conventional beef from cows. This marks the first time the Redwood City, CA-based startup has revamped their burger recipe since the patties debuted in 2016.
The new-and-improved burgers will launch tomorrow (January 8th) in an array of high-end restaurants, and Impossible stated over email that they will “likely” be available in grocery stores in 2019 (as long as Impossible gets FDA approval to sell its burgers in retail). So far, there’s no word when the new recipe will roll out to the over 5,000-odd locations — including all White Castles — which currently have Impossible burgers on their menu.
Impossible’s patties already contained no cholesterol and have comparable protein to ground beef — so essentially, the main difference is that the new patty is gluten-free. Which is actually kind of a big deal. “Wheat protein” is the first ingredient listed on the Impossible Foods website, followed by coconut oil, potato protein, and heme (which is what makes the burgers “bleed”). That means that the original Impossible patty was strictly off-limits for anyone with a gluten allergy, or who was just trying to cut down on gluten for health/dietary reasons.
Nixing the wheat protein certainly opens up potential new consumers for Impossible, but only if they can still deliver on taste without their primary ingredient. Which leads me to wonder: what exactly is the new burger made of? Impossible didn’t reveal the ingredients in their new burger, so we don’t know what they’re using to replace wheat. My guess is pea protein, the go-to protein choice of most alternative-meats including Beyond Meat, Impossible Foods’ biggest plant-based competitor. (Beyond Meat’s products are already gluten-free.) That could make it especially tricky for Impossible to differentiate itself when it heads onto retail shelves to compete directly with Beyond in 2019.
[Ed note: At the opening Impossible Foods revealed that the main ingredients in their new burgers are soy and potato protein, not pea protein as I’d guessed.]
Taking a step back, it’s interesting that Impossible Foods decided to make this announcement at CES, amid a sea of more “traditional” technologies like touchscreens and VR helmets. But when you think about it, plant-based meat is indeed a technology: one that’s changing the way we eat protein. In fact, it’s a technology that has the potential to improve our planet a lot quicker than something like self-driving cars. I for one hope we see more innovative food companies repping at events like CES in the future.
For now, CES attendees can try free samples of Impossible’s new burgers from a food truck outside the Las Vegas Convention Center from January 8-11. Stop by and let us know what you think!