Today is a happy day for the rapidly growing alternative meat movement: The Impossible Whopper — a burger made with 0 percent meat — has just become available at 111 Burger King restaurants in the greater San Francisco Bay Area.
The plant-based burger is a partnership with the startup company Impossible Foods, which supplies patties made with heme, a protein cultivated from soybean roots that mimics the taste and texture of meat. It even “bleeds,” just like real beef.
Burger King announced in April that it plans to make the Impossible Whopper available nationwide, in all of its 7,200 branches, by the end of this year. The Bay Area expansion is a significant step toward that goal. Until now, only about 200 branches in the US served the meatless burger, with concentrations in Missouri, Florida, Georgia, and Alabama.
Impossible Foods is based in Redwood City, California, and nearby San Francisco is a natural market for its products, which appeal to people who are concerned about animal cruelty or climate change, and to those trying to eat a healthier diet.
The rise of meat alternatives could help save hundreds of thousands of animals from suffering on factory farms, and it could fight global warming by reducing the number of methane-producing cattle. It could also combat other problems like antibiotic resistance.
The past few months have been a time of incredible growth for the alternative meat movement, and as consumer demand surges, investors have been jumping on board. In May, Impossible Foods raised $300 million in new investor funding. Its rival, Beyond Meat, went public and its stock jumped from $25 to $80.
In April, Del Taco announced it’s partnering with Beyond Meat to offer new meatless tacos, and Qdoba announced that all 730 of its locations will offer Impossible Foods’ meat alternative.
These companies were following in the footsteps of early adopters like White Castle, which sells a slider version of the patty produced by Impossible Foods, and Carl’s Jr., which offers a veggie burger made by Beyond Meat.
It’s becoming clear that there’s profit to be made in the plant-based meat business. After Burger King gave the Impossible Whopper an initial trial run in 59 restaurants in the St. Louis area, those locations enjoyed 18 percent higher foot traffic than the fast-food chain’s national average.
The consumer demand is there — the question now is whether Impossible Foods can keep up with it. Over about a month, the startup has had to nearly double its staff at its Oakland manufacturing plant, going from approximately 70 to 130 employees, according to CNN. It also added a second production line.
“We are facing short-term ramp-up challenges resulting from demand greatly outstripping supply,” Impossible Foods said in a recent statement.
Although that may be inconvenient, it’s honestly a great problem to have — and a sign of just how far the alternative meat movement has come.
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