Do you like the idea of a plant-based Impossible Burger, except you’re not a fan of burgers? Your best bet might be Qdoba. The Mexican food chain announced this week that its trial of Impossible Meat at a few of its Michigan locations was a major success, and it will expand to its 730 locations nationwide by the end of May.
It’s been an incredible month for Impossible Foods and its competitors in the plant-based meat industry.
Impossible Foods, which makes the Impossible Burger and other plant-based meat products, announced just two weeks ago it was partnering with Burger King to offer plant-based Whoppers. Early reviews — and sales — look good. Burger King joined White Castle, which sells Impossible Foods sliders, and Carl’s Jr., which sells burgers from Impossible Foods’ competitor Beyond Meat. Last week, Mexican food chain Del Taco announced it would sell Beyond Meat, too.
Now, Qdoba has joined them. The plant-based meat alternative is featured in two entrees — the Impossible Bowl and the Impossible Taco — or you can order it in anything else in place of beef.
The rise of plant-based foods is actually a big deal
There’s a lot wrong with our food system — from animal cruelty to antibiotic resistance to its contributions to climate change. But people really like meat, and efforts to curb these problems by convincing people to switch away from meat haven’t worked well. There are about as many vegans and vegetarians as there were 20 years ago.
That’s where plant-based meat alternatives can step in. Products like veggie burgers, fake chicken, and soy and almond milk are growing in popularity and market share — and even better, they’re getting tastier and harder to distinguish from animal meat.
Impossible Foods makes its products with heme, a protein that’s cultivated from soybean roots and is credited for lending the Impossible Burger its strikingly meaty flavor. Even people who eat meat are often happy to substitute an equally tasty alternative that’s better for the world.
Beyond Meat founder Ethan Brown told my colleague Sigal Samuel that 93 percent of consumers who buy Beyond Meat also buy animal meat — and he’s fine with that. It’s a sign these products, far from being a just-for-vegans eccentricity, are going mainstream.
With the surge of consumer and restaurant interest in plant-based foods has come a surge in investment from titans of the meat industry. Last fall, Perdue Farms announced it was looking into its own plant-based products. Tyson Foods announced in February it was launching a plant-based product line. Since 2016, Tyson has also made investments in plant-based and lab-grown meat research and operations, putting money into the cell-based meat startups Memphis Meats and Future Meat Technologies Ltd. and in the plant-based meat startup Beyond Meat.
It’ll probably be a long time before these alternatives can replicate the experience of a steak — though engineers are hard at work on it. In the meantime, they’re finding their niche with burgers and ground beef. Restaurants and consumers, going by the recent surge of interest, are increasingly getting on board.
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