To show how its new direct-to-consumer store works, Impossible Foods sent me a batch of their plant-based burgers, which arrived yesterday.
Impossible isn’t available in stores up near us, so we’ve been eating a lot of Beyond Meat during our quarantine. I was excited for the rest of my family to finally try Impossible’s take on plant-based burgers and see what they thought of it compared to Beyond. The results surprised me.
We are definitely a family of flexitarians. My son has grown up eating regular ol’ cow cheeseburgers and always liked them. And while we still eat meat regularly, as plant-based alternatives get better, we’ve incorporated more of them into our diet. Animal-based cheeseburgers, however, are a thing of the past.
So I was surprised when my son’s review of the Impossible burger was that it was “too much like regular meat.” Too much like the regular meat he had grown up eating. It was off-putting to him. He was actually “concerned” that you could play a practical joke on someone by replacing their meat hamburger with Impossible. (What the consequences of such chicanery would be, however, I’m unsure.)
But replicating the meat without the animal is the point, right? At least, it is to the tastebuds of my wife and I. The umami flavor and beefy texture of the Impossible burger are what we actually like. We both prefer Impossible to Beyond, which still has a slightly different, pea protien-y taste. But it turns out that Beyond’s slightly different flavor is what my son really likes.
My nine-year-old isn’t the only one who doesn’t dig plant-based meat that is too meaty. My former colleague, and staunch vegetarian, Catherine Lamb had a similar reaction with the Beyond Meat ground product last year, writing:
In truth, the Beyond Beef was almost too realistic for me. I haven’t eaten meat in five years, and eating a Beyond Beef burger was almost too close to the real thing for comfort. Even when I made the remainder into bolognese later in the week (you guessed it — it cooks up just like ground beef) I had trouble finishing it; the beefy flavor permeated the whole sauce in a way that was a little too strong for my liking.
Ironically, Catherine seemed to prefer Impossible.
I”m not writing this because I think my son has a supernatural palate or some deep insight into flavors. It’s more an observation as Impossible ramps up their retail operations. Will the first plant-based burger people try be the one they stick with? Will regional tastes emerge with different parts of the country preferring one over the other?
Impossible and Beyond are becoming the plant-based Coke versus Pepsi. But the twist here is that these new types of vegetarian meat are like software, meaning the recipes going into them can be tweaked and altered and re-released as new versions. Perhaps we’ll even see beefier/less beefy options a la Coke Zero or Crystal Pepsi.
Actually, let’s hope they don’t create a plant-based Crystal Pepsi.