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Impossible Foods vs. Beyond Meat: Why some restaurants prefer one over the other

Janet Nguyen Jun 14, 2019
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A view of the "Impossible Whopper" from Burger King.
Michael Thomas/Getty Images

Impossible Foods vs. Beyond Meat just might be the Coke vs. Pepsi of the alternative meat world.

Restaurants tend to be loyal to certain brands over others, and now they’re pledging their allegiance to the companies that produce fake meat.

Veggie options already existed at both grocery stores and food chains, but companies like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat have created plant-based meat options that, increasingly resembling the real thing, are marketed to meat-eating customers.

Over the past couple of years, many restaurant chains have started to introduce either Impossible Meat or Beyond Meat in their burgers, tacos and breakfast sandwiches, including popular fast-food restaurants like Burger King and Carl’s Jr.

Prices can range from $1.99, the cost of White Castle’s “Impossible Slider,” to $16 for the products at more upscale places like Umami Burger. Items with these alternatives are usually more expensive than their meat counterparts.

Here’s a sample of some chains that use either Beyond or Impossible:

*These products may not be available at all of the chain restaurant’s stores.

Brand loyalty

Some of the restaurants we reached out to, like BurgerFi, told us there aren’t any exclusivity terms that they have to follow. You can indeed find the rare restaurant, like the New York–based chain Bareburger, that will serve up both Beyond and Impossible products.

But Diana Kelter, the senior trend analyst at Mintel, said she thinks the decision behind company loyalty may be to create a “unified brand experience.”

White Castle vice president Jamie Richardson explained the company aims to make long-term commitments when it partners with another business.

“We’ve built a brand together, we think, for the Impossible Slider,” he said. “We don’t see that changing.”

There are also other valid reasons a restaurant might stick with a company, which include the types of ingredients it uses, the breadth of options available and, of course, the actual taste of the products, according to Zak Weston, a food service analyst at the Good Food Institute.

Beyond Meat, for example, offers a sausage option, which A&W’s Canadian branches sell in their line of breakfast sandwiches. Meanwhile, Impossible Foods has only just started to roll out a sausage product.

Paul Griffin, vice president of culinary and R&D for BurgerFi International, said part of the reason Beyond Meat appealed to the company is because it doesn’t have GMOs, soy or gluten.

In an emailed statement, Griffin pointed out that the Impossible Burger had gluten and GMOs when BurgerFi started carrying its meatless burgers. (Impossible Foods has since developed a new formula for a gluten-free burger.)

Unlike Beyond Meat, Impossible Foods also uses a protein called leghemoglobin, which is found in plants that carry heme — the molecule that gives its products that bloody taste and texture of real meat. It’s a feature that’s contributed to the company’s growing success.

The future of Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods

Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods had different strategies when they were starting out. Zak Weston said Impossible pursued a strategy of introducing its items into high-end restaurants, then offering lower-priced products.

“Which is sort of almost like a Tesla approach to the marketplace,” he said.

Beyond Meat, on the other hand, focused more on retail settings, which now account for half of its business.

Although their target markets might have differed at first, both are in the game to try and expand as widely as they can.

“They’ve both publicly stated that their goal is to really reach every single person,” Weston said.

The two may face a growing number of competitors, though. The global meat substitute market is estimated to hit $6.43 billion by 2023.

Food corporations that produce actual meat are itching to take part in the plant-based food market.

Tyson, for example, recently announced it’s launching a brand of alternative meat products, which will include a burger made from both real beef and plants.

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