A few months after grabbing the headlines as it was roundly acclaimed as the ‘winning’ technology of the Consumer Electronics Show 2019 it was only allowed to be present at after a change of rules, the Impossible Burger 2.0 has signed a distribution deal with Burger King. The faux burgers that are remarkably similar to real beef despite being made entirely of plant-based ingredients will be used in a new line, the Impossible Whopper.
While not the first distribution deal struck with a restaurant chain, Impossible burgers are also sold through U.S. chains Cheesecake Factory and White Castle, Burger King would represent a new level. The agreement starts as a trial run across 59 restaurants of the chain that is only surpassed by McDonald’s in terms of international presence. But if demand for the Impossible Whoppers served at Burger King outlets across St. Louis, Missouri goes as well as might be expected, there could be a quick roll-out across the entire 6000 dotted around the USA. The brand’s international franchises would be expected to follow.
It’s another major coup for Impossible Foods, the ‘foodtech’ start-up behind the Impossible burger. While meat replacement products such as soya mince have been around for years, the new generation of foodtech represented by Impossible Foods and rivals such as Beyond Meat is in a completely different league. They have harnessed and further developed the latest food technology to develop faux beef burger patties that genuinely pass for real, high quality meat at blind tastings.
The realism has been achieved by focusing on smell and texture as well as taste and is now starting to represent a genuine alternative for consumers who enjoy eating meat but are concerned about the environment impact of the meat industry and/or animal welfare.
And addressing that consumer need is proving to be very good business. Data published by the non-profit industry body for the promotion of ‘alternative proteins’ the Good Food Institute, estimates the retail sales market for these products grew 17% to $3.7 billion over the year ending August 31st 2018. The boom in awareness and popularity that has followed the rave reviews of the Impossible Burger 2.0 at the CES in January almost certainly means that even impressive growth figure will be blown away this year.
Impossible Foods’ chief financial officer David Lee commented:
“The reality is the consumer demand we are seeing today so far exceeds almost anyone’s approximation a few months ago . . . ”
The company, which has to-date raised a total of $475 million since being founded in 2011, and lists Bill Gates and the Singapore government-backed Temasek fund among its investors, has filed documents with the SEC announcing a new investment round. The total the company is looking for has not been disclosed but it will almost certainly value to company at over $1 billion, giving it ‘unicorn’ status. With the Burger King deal now in the bag it is unlikely that Impossible will struggle to drum up interest. Existing investors such as Temasek are thought to be keen to participate again.
Any capital raised will invested in increasing capacity. Impossible says that its current capacity would allow it to meet a roll-out across the 6000 Burger King restaurants. However, it would be straining to meet any further future demand such is the pace of growth.
Rival brand Beyond Meat is said to planning an IPO later this year.