The burger has long been the prime target of plant-based meat companies.
It’s easier to mimic than a sirloin or a chop since it’s ground; the burger gets right to the heart of consumers’ health concerns over processed meat; and it’s pure Americana.
But now food tech startups have expanded to a new type of meat that hits on a similar trifecta: sausages.
On Monday, Silicon Valley-based Impossible Foods is making its plant-based sausage patty available to all restaurants in the U.S. through distributors including DOT, Sysco, and U.S. Foods. The move follows the product’s January debut in select Burger Kings, and the broad rollout earlier this month of an Impossible Sausage breakfast sandwich at Starbucks.
“It was never just about the burger,” Impossible Foods CEO David Lee told Fortune. “We intend to be a very large part of the entire meat industry.”
Six months after launching, the Impossible Sausage is now available in more than 20,000 restaurant locations, including early partners Starbucks and Burger King, as well as 30 of the nation’s top-rated diners via Yelp. “It’s a major milestone for the company,” says Lee. “The addressable market that we can demonstrate for Impossible is clearly way beyond a burger.”
While the Impossible Burger had primarily allowed the company to get into the lunch and dinner market, the launch of the Impossible Sausage allows the company to make advances at breakfast.
Impossible Foods and its food-tech competitors are on a mission to displace the traditional meat industry by attempting to offer plant-based alternatives that taste and perform so similarly to the real thing that they entice even serious meat eaters. These startups have gained traction as consumers become increasingly aware of meat’s impact on their health and the environment. In its most recent release, the company also touted a new timely benefit, saying that “transitioning away from eating animal products is one of the best ways to reduce the likelihood of future animal to human pandemics.”
Lee noted that coronavirus has only highlighted the challenges of the meat industry for consumers. “Meat eaters have long before this current crisis been in denial about the compromises they make when they choose to eat meat from an animal,” Lee says, noting that consumers are now being confronted with articles about meat processing plants struggling to curb cases of COVID-19.
The Impossible Sausage is the first new product that the company has rolled out since the burger in 2016, and follows the launch of a sausage patty by its biggest competitor, Beyond Meat, late last year. Beyond Meat also started rolling out sausages in link form in 2017.
Impossible Foods closed a $500 million round of funding in March, bringing its total funding to $1.3 billion so far. Lee says the round is going toward continued global expansion and research and development.
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