[Impossible sliders laid out on a tray with gluten-free buns, lettuce, tomato, and Impossible Food’s “Americana” sauce made from vegan mayonnaise, Sriracha, ketchup, and caramelized onions.]
CES 2019: Las Vegas, Nevada — We spoke to Impossible Foods COO David Lee. We wanted to know why 2019 was the year for Impossible Foods, which has been selling products for years, to come to the world’s largest technology show.
“CES is always the place to break important, critical, disruptive technology and Impossible Foods was founded with a bold mission to help save the planet one delicious burger at a time — to start. Today we’re serving Impossible Burger 2.0. This is an example of technology that just gets better and better. It has everything you want in a burger — the taste, the texture, the crave-ability. It has all the protein you want, all the iron you want, but it doesn’t have the stuff you don’t want. It doesn’t have cholesterol. It doesn’t have the same amount of fat. It doesn’t have the same amount of calories. What it does is that it allows meat eaters everywhere to prefer our burger — made from plants — versus a burger from a cow.”
Adding a phrase like “2.0” to the end of something you put into your mouth doesn’t sound super tasty, but that’s because, from a marketing perspective, David Lee and the rest of the team at Impossible Foods has absolutely nothing to worry about. The first version of the Impossible Burger wasn’t available to consumers — it was only in restaurants, played with and served by the world’s top chefs. This practice built a reputation for the Impossible Burger among restaurateurs, their chefs, and consumers that’s built on quality, care, and above all — taste.
[David Lee, COO of Impossible Foods, the company that produces The Impossible Burger, smiles in front of their CES 2019 food truck.]
The 2.0 product is a little different. After having received FDA’s GRAS (“Generally Recognized as Safe”) certification in Q3 of 2018, Impossible Foods is moving their product to within consumers’ grasp. A spokeswoman for Impossible Foods told Geeks of Doom that the new product is going to be on supermarket shelves sometime before the end of 2019. She wouldn’t say on which shelves, and they refused to lock down a date, month, or even a quarter, but she assured us that it would be available for stovetops not before too long.
And this is good news because Impossible Foods 2.0 is better than the previous versions in nearly every way. “The New New Impossible Burger,” as Lee referred to it, is “preferred by [their] consumers by 3:1, is on par to the likability for real beef to meat eaters. It has better taste, it has better structure and texture.. and its versatile.”
According to Impossible Foods, the home chef should be able to braise it, bake it, and do everything with the New New burger that one can already do with ground beef. That includes tacos, chili, casseroles, stuffed peppers, lasagna, and, if your mouth isn’t already watering enough — of course — grilled hamburgers — the sort that are seared on each side and pink in the middle.
[Up close and personal with this potato and soy based slider.]
“What we’re trying to show is that technology can make the world a better place,” David Lee continued. But what about that technology? Impossible Foods’ spokesperson said that it’s a combination of potato and soy proteins, with soy-based plant hemoglobin as the source for the all-important heme, the irony-like component that makes mouths crave ground beef.
They’re rolling the product out with David Chang at Momofuku major burger chains like Umami Burger and White Castle. And that’s nationwide. Right now, at CES 2019, anyone can go to the White Castle on the Las Vegas Strip and experience Impossible Food’s New New slider for $1.99 a piece.
This brings us to another remarkable thing about Impossible Foods. They’ve got data on who likes their product. While any forum will show some percentage of grumbles from anti-meat consumers who want a world where vegetarian and vegan food doesn’t try to imitate meat, Impossible Foods found, through their restaurant trials, that the “vast majority” of their consumers are not only meat eaters, but meat eaters who are strong repeat buyers. The White Castle strategy is beginning to make a lot of sense.
[So many sliders.]
So how much is it going to cost us on shelves? To that the Impossible Foods COO would only say this: “It’s a better cost profile for our company,” which is not exactly concrete. What was indeed concrete was the protestation that when it comes to the New New Slider, Impossible Foods was finished with the development. The product doesn’t need to be tweaked to make it cheaper. The more scale they have, the less the New New Slider will cost, which explains the move to retail.
They’re not too worried about that price. With lifetime investment approaching half of a billion dollars, Impossible Foods assured me that it was well funded and ready for the long investment in building relationships with supermarkets and suppliers.
So, you ask how did this gluten-free, dairy-free, meatless slider taste?
Well… it’s pretty tasty. The only surprise was how much it didn’t surprise me. It tastes like… ground beef. For the lurid details about how exactly the burger tastes, check my review out on next episode of The Drill Down podcast (January 11th release date).
It’s a reminder that Technology isn’t limited to electronics or microchips — Tech’s essence is the application of science to better our world. Impossible Foods very much wants to be part of that world.