A vegan burger that “bleeds” like real meat is so convincing that it could become one of the first meat-substitute brands to be worth a billion dollars, thanks to a new distribution deal with Burger King.
Impossible Foods, a Silicon Valley-based startup that uses ingredients like soy, potato, coconut and beetroot to create meat substitutes, announced earlier this week the launch of the Impossible Whopper, a new option to be trialed in St Louis before being rolled out in Burger King stores across the U.S.
Targeting not only vegetarians and vegans, companies like Impossible are also gearing their products towards “flexitarians” and environmentally conscious eaters, who are concerned about the impact of the meat industry on the planet.
While the trial marks not only a big step forward for Impossible as a business, the partnership with Burger King is a huge symbolic leap for the vegan and meat-replacement industry, a food sector that has grown rapidly in recent years, particularly in Asia.
Combining food with technology, Impossible Foods unveiled its latest products earlier this year not at a food show, but at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
It's also raising funds like a tech company – since being founded in 2011, Impossible has attracted some 475 million U.S. dollars' worth of investment, from backers ranging from Bill Gates to Singapore's national fund Temasek.
The concept has also received Chinese interest, with Shanghai International Group's Sailing Fund among Impossible's investors.
The meat substitute industry is already worth an estimated 4.6 billion U.S. dollars, according to Markets and Markets, a research firm which sees the sector growing to 6.4 billion U.S. dollars by 2023.
Asia is set to be the primary driver of that growth, with companies like Impossible, JUST and Beyond Meat all focusing on China.
JUST, a U.S. firm behind egg-free products, has said “China is the most important market to JUST globally,” according to Business Times.
The brand has formed partnerships with Alibaba and JD.com to sell its products in several Chinese cities starting this month.
Hong Kong Special Administrative Region has been used as a testing ground for these companies, ahead of releasing their products in the Chinese mainland.
Impossible Foods rapidly expanded its distribution from five to over 100 stores in Hong Kong in the past year, while Beyond Meat plans to launch in the mainland later this year, after witnessing its Hong Kong sales jump by 300 percent in 2018.