Impossible Foods Inc., maker of the eponymous “bleeding” soy-based burger, is debuting two faux meat products at CES in Las Vegas: Impossible Pork and Impossible Sausage, ramping up the rivalry with Beyond Meat Inc.
Impossible, based in Silicon Valley, plans to give away about 25,000 samples at the consumer electronics show this week, and its sausage will be rolled out starting in late January at 139 Burger King locations in five test markets, including one in Alabama.
Like its nonbeef burger, both of the pork products use soy as the primary ingredient and contain “heme,” an iron-containing molecule that gives the products their meaty look and flavor and is made from a genetically modified yeast.
“Heme is the magic ingredient that drives all the meat flavor,” said Laura Kliman, a senior flavor scientist at Impossible. “Obviously the flavor of pork is very different from beef – there’s less heme in pork. Heme is still the key driver, just different amounts of it.”
There are major textural differences the company had to account for in the burger development. Pork is softer and springier than beef, Kliman said. While the ingredients for the pork, sausage and beef are similar, the actual formulations are different.
“It’s all about balance – really understanding the science and functionality of the ingredients individually and as a system,” she said.
The pork was developed with input from chefs in Hong Kong and Singapore. China, the world’s biggest pork-consuming country, is key to Impossible’s future plans.
“Our mission is global and, with 40% of meat being consumed in Asia, we are very focused on ensuring we can enter major markets like China as soon as possible,” said Chief Financial Officer David Lee. He said the company doesn’t have a specific date at this point.
As consumers gravitate toward plant-based foods, the companies making them are racing to keep up. Impossible’s biggest competitor, Beyond Meat, has beef and sausage products already on the market. Other companies, including Nestle SA, Conagra Brands Inc., and pork giant Smithfield Foods Inc., have unveiled imitation meat products.
At Burger King, Impossible Sausage will be served as a patty on the new Impossible Croissan’wich, a toasted croissant with egg and cheese. The sandwich follows the success of the Impossible Whopper, which the burger chain says has sent new customers into its restaurants in droves. The sausage sandwich will be available in Savannah, Georgia; Lansing, Michigan; Springfield, Illinois; Albuquerque, New Mexico; and Montgomery, Alabama.
Impossible has yet to announce plans to sell its ground pork product.
Since its debut at New York’s Momofuku Nishi in 2016, Impossible’s burgers and beef are now served in more than 17,000 restaurants, cafeterias and other food-service operations in the U.S. and Asia.
Impossible has long been driven by a mission to slow climate change: Livestock used in agriculture accounts for an estimated 14.5% of all man-made greenhouse gases. While beef and dairy cattle are by far the biggest contributors, at 62% of the sector’s emissions, pigs are in second place, accounting for about 10%, according to the U.N. Yet they are much more widely consumed: The world ate about 120 million tons in 2018, compared to 70 million tons of beef and veal, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
(With assistance from Candy Cheng, Taylor Riggs and Leslie Patton. Contact the reporter at [email protected].)