So there’s this Stanford professor, Patrick Brown, B.S., M.D., PHD, who decides in 2009 to take an 18-month sabbatical in 2009 to study “eliminating industrial animal agriculture” (fancy words that basically mean big time animal raising for food).
He is of the school that believes the industry is doing major damage to the planet. He hosts a few seminars on his findings, the world kind of doesn’t take notice, but convinced he’s onto something with the idea of replacing animal protein with that derived from plants, he starts “Impossible Foods” in 2011 at the age of 57, apparently aiming to be the Colonel Sanders of the industry segment.
Armed with $400 million in venture capital (seriously!) he sets out to create first of all, a “burger” that duplicates the appearance, texture, and taste of a ground beef hamburger, but using entirely plant-based components.
A restaurant or two pick it up and the product meets with moderate success, initially. Here’s what struck me about its “overnight success.” These guys found the best PR/Marketing company in the world, apparently, cause try as you might, it’s pretty damned difficult to find a BAD review of the burger. “Tastes just like hamburger.” “It even bleeds.” Blah blah blah. They launched a campaign equal to the one some years back for the much ado about nothing “Umami Burger.”
Full-scale production, widespread distribution, buckets of venture money, it looks like the Impossible Burger is here to stay. So far the pitch has been you’re gonna help save the planet, rather than get healthier. Maybe that message is somewhere and I just haven’t seen it.
The company had a victory this week in having the product certified as Kosher. Also this week at the National Restaurant Show, they debuted a line of breakfast sausages.
They chose White Castle as the outlet for one of their first mass production deals. Curious since it’s not a national chain, isn’t really known for launching new products, and already has their own vegetarian patty on the menu, which I tried a couple years ago.
The White Castle product is “slider size” and is marketed as being topped with smokey cheddar cheese, pickles and onions. For some reason, at my White Castle, they didn’t think I deserved the topping or were hell-bent on saving a nickel that day, so mine was plain. Actually, that’s alright, it gives one a better sense of the product on a stand-alone basis. (Adding junk on top of a burger can make just about any meat patty ‘better.’ just look at the success of In N Out).
My take? I don’t think it’s a mass market product. Not that many people are willing to change their habits (obviously) to save the planet. It probably appeals to devout vegetarians who think they miss the taste of beef or just want some variety (a complaint I hear a lot from vegetarians), but I don’t think it is going to get that many beef-a-holics to change their eating habits.
It looks like ground beef. It has an aroma and taste that will REMIND you of ground beef. (To me it tastes like inexpensive ground beef blend, a fatty 77/23 or so). The texture they are going to have to work on, as well as a binder. Fat holds ground beef together, and the Impossible Burger crumbles, at least in the White Castle version.
I wish them success. Great to see an old geezer (as I am) like Brown do a big-time start-up, and get that kind of financing, especially since it’s an industry he doesn’t have experience in.
I don’t know whether they are selling the product in bulk yet, like at groceries. Someone told me it’s at Whole Foods, but I haven’t verified it. It is in a lot of restaurants tho, and the company provides a locator so you can track down an Impossible Burger near you. I’m sure chefs are being creative with ingredients and presentation.
Impossible Burger Review
Impossible Burger Review