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For those old enough, the phrase “Where’s the beef?” Is indelibly burned into our conscious. That early 80s Wendy’s TV ad had a trio of elderly ladies complaining about a diminutive burger patty on a comically large bun.
I’m not sure that Impossible Foods’ new (and first) national TV ad campaign will become part of the cultural zeitgeist like Wendy’s ad became. But I do know that the company’s ads are trying to capture the mind (and dollars) of full-on meat eaters.
Impossible isn’t shy about its meat conversion ambitions. The spots have not-so-subtle titles like “We Love Meat” and “Meat Places.” Famed ad agency Wieden+Kennedy produced the ads, which feature sumptuous imagery of Impossible’s plant-based burgers sizzling on a grill, melted cheese cascading around the edges, piled high on a golden bun. The voice, which kinda sounds like Sam Elliot but might be Scott Glenn, is done with the same slow, intentional, salt-of-the-earth drawl as beef commercials. But if you muted the audio and just watched the ads, you would honestly think you were seeing a regular burger joint grilling up traditional beef.
The timing certainly seems right for Impossible to, uhhh, beef up its marketing with a big, national TV campaign. According to data released this week from SPINS and the Good Food Institute, sales of plant-based meat hit $1.4 billion dollars in 2020, growing 45 percent over 2019. So interest in and money spent on plant-based meat is at an all-time high. (Even friend of The Spoon, WIRED writer, and longtime Impossible holdout, Joe Ray recently succumbed to Impossible’s plant-based siren call.)
Part of the reason for that sales growth is that Impossible cranked up its retail machine last year as we were all stuck at home cooking more. Impossible says its products are now available in 20,000 grocery stores nationwide, which also means people swayed by its TV spots can take action and buy it at their local store. It also helps that Impossible has been cutting the price of their burger to bring it closer to that of animal meat.
And last but not least, Impossible’s ad blitz comes after a year of back-and-forth news announcements with rival Beyond Meat that saw both companies expanding at retail, launching new products and direct to consumer sales channels. A big flashy national TV campaign could give Impossible an edge — especially since summer grilling season is almost here and this summer we can actually invite (vaccinated) people over to our backyards.
The only question now is whether Impossible’s ads will sway its target audience. Anecdotally speaking, beef eaters I know are a tough crowd to win over with plant-based alternatives. There is still a mindset of “if I’m going to have a burger, I’m going to have a burger.” But who knows, maybe seeing the Impossible TV spots will have a whole new segment of people asking, “Who needs the beef?”
GFI: Plant-Based Retail Sales Reach $7B in the U.S. -- Dairy alternatives are still tops, but sales of plant-based ground products doubled.
Netherlands-Based Schouten Launches Plant-Based Beef and Chicken -- Schouten has been producing meat alternatives using plant-based ingredients since 1990.
MicroSalt Reformulates Salt So You Use Less of It -- MicroSalt affixes nano-sized salt crystals to maltodextrin. The result is the same flavor using half the salt.
Welldone Aims to Reach Price Parity With Meat in Russia -- Welldone uses an extrusion process to craft its alternative burger patties, cutlets, and minced meat. Each of the products are made from a combination of soy, coconut oil, and cellulose.