Updated October 18, 2019. | The vegan Impossible Foods burger that “bleeds” like a beef burger has made its retail debut.
The Impossible Burger is available at 27 Gelson’s Market locations throughout the Southern California region. It comes in a 12-ounce package and retails for $8.99. This marked the first time that Impossible Foods’ plant-based meat has been made available to retailers. It sold out faster than traditional beef, Fox Business reported, setting an all-time record for both revenue and total sold by weight.
Less than a week after launching in Gelson’s, Impossible Foods announced that the burger is heading to the east coast. It will launch in all 100 Wegman’s across seven states as well as two Fairway supermarkets in New York City — one on 74th Street and the other at 86th Street.
According to a press release, Impossible Foods’ vegan meat outsold traditional beef by the pound and by revenue. “The launch initiated a historic consumer reaction from both our loyal and new customers who were thrilled to play a part in the future of food,” Gelson’s Markets CEO Rob McDougall said in a statement.
Strengthening the Plant-Based Meat Market
“Impossible Foods’ retail debut will prompt a rapid acceleration in plant-based meat market growth,” Bruce Friedrich, executive director of the Good Food Institute, said in a statement sent to LIVEKINDLY. “Impossible’s entry into retail will help expand and strengthen the plant-based meat market, giving consumers more choice and stimulating demand across the entire sector.”
Impossible Foods originally teased its retail launch earlier this month. The post followed up from one last November. That post said “see you in line,” with a grocery cart as the image and accompanying emoji.
Until now the burger has only been available in restaurants and foodservice outlets. It made headlines last year when fast-food chain White Castle launched an Impossible Slider. The burger has become a hit for the chain, with locations selling hundreds per day. Support from members of the New York-based rap group the Wu-Tang Clan helped further position the burger to a young audience.
Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst posted about the new patty on his Instagram Stories. He wrote, “finally, on shelves today” over an image of the burger in the supermarket. He took it straight home to cook it, commenting that it “cooks just beef. Real beef.” He added, “oh my god, looks very good. Oh yeah … this burger is unbelievable. Trust me.”
Former supermodel Chrissy Teigen and musician husband John Legend also celebrated the launch of the new burger. The pair were spotted with their son Miles introducing an Impossible Foods cooking demonstration ahead of the rollout. The demo was led by Teigen’s mom, Vilailuck Teigen aka “Pepper Thai.”
Making Vegan Burgers ‘Bleed’
Bay Area-based Impossible Foods was founded by Stanford professor emeritus, Pat Brown. The company recently relocated to a facility where it’s now producing over 500,000 pounds of the vegan meat every month. But the facility has the capacity to produce over a million pounds of the meat every month. The move to retail is likely to push its production toward the million-pound mark.
Like its closest competitor the Beyond Meat Beyond Burger, the Impossible Burger “bleeds.” But it differs from Beyond Meat with the use of heme, a substance sourced from the root of the soybean plant. It creates the pinkish bleeding factor and meaty-like texture. According to SPINS data, retail sales of vegan burgers have surged 151 percent since 2018. Vegan burgers are a key driver of the plant-based food market, with sales increasing five times as fast as other vegan meat products.
Impossible Foods came under fire for submitting its ingredients to a small animal testing study recommended by the FDA to secure GRAS status consideration. The GRAS status (“generally recognized as safe”) was necessary, the company said, because of the inclusion of heme ingredient. More than 180 rats were killed for the test. While not mandatory, it’s a recommended procedure for new or rare ingredients. This is the first product containing soy-based heme.
“The core of Impossible Foods’ mission is to eliminate exploitation of animals in the food system and to reduce the enormous destructive impact of the animal farming and fishing industries on the environment, including wildlife and the ecosystems they depend on,” Brown said in a statement after the testing in 2017.
Brown says the decision was a difficult one for the brand. But, he hopes in the long run, assuring millions of consumers that the plant-based meat is indeed safe will pay off.
“Avoiding the dilemma was not an option,” Brown said. “We hope we will never have to face such a choice again, but choosing the option that advances the greater good is more important to us than ideological purity.”
Impossible Foods will announce additional retail expansions later this year.