Impossible Foods now hawks its faux ground beef in grocery stores

Fire up the grill.

Dara Kerr Former senior reporter
Dara Kerr was a senior reporter for CNET covering the on-demand economy and tech culture. She grew up in Colorado, went to school in New York City and can never remember how to pronounce gif.
Dara Kerr
3 min read

A 12-ounce package of raw "ground beef" goes for $8.99.

Impossible Foods

The plant-based vegan ground beef wars are on. Beyond Meat has long sold its faux burger meat in grocery stores, but Impossible Foods is now bringing its product to supermarkets too.

Impossible Foods, which is known for its lab-grown burger that tastes a lot like real beef, announced Thursday it's debuting its raw "ground beef" in 27 of Gelson's supermarkets in Southern California starting on Friday. That means people will be able to experiment with the food in their own kitchens, creating taco fillers, chili, meatballs and burgers.

"We can't wait for home cooks to experience the magic -- whether using Impossible Burger in their family favorites or inventing new recipes that go viral," Pat Brown, Impossible Foods' CEO and founder, said in a statement.  

Lab-grown meat and dairy products are one of the latest trends to come out of Silicon Valley. Along with Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat, at least a dozen other companies are coming up with beef, chicken, pork and fish made from plant-based proteins. Data from Nielsen and the Plant-Based Foods Association shows that sales of plant-based meats rose 24% in 2018, whereas sales of animal meats grew by only 2% in the same period.

Now, with Impossible Foods entering the retail market, even competition within the meatless meat market will likely get a shake-up, said Eric Schiffer, a brand management expert and CEO of Reputation Management Consultants.

"This is like bringing in Godzilla to fight King Kong," Schiffer said. "They should be underneath their desks preparing for impact."

The goal for Impossible Foods is to reduce the environmental impact of beef production on the planet. Livestock factory farming uses 30% of the Earth's land surface and contributes to more than 18% of global greenhouse gases, according to the United Nations. Impossible Foods says it can produce a burger using a fourth of the water and less than 4% of the land -- and emit one-tenth of the greenhouse gases -- than a conventional burger.

Founded in 2011, Impossible Foods was the first food-tech company to use a plant-based ingredient in its burgers called heme. It's a blood-like compound found in all living things and that can replicate the taste, color and aroma of meat. This heme is what makes the burgers bleed.

Impossible Foods first made its Impossible Burger available at the high-end restaurant Momofuku Nishi in New York in 2016. Since then it's rolled out to thousands more restaurants and fast food chains, including Burger King and White Castle. Last January, the company debuted a new recipe for its burger that's softer and more versatile than its first rendition.

"Unlike the cow, we get better at making meat every single day," Brown, who previously taught biochemistry at Stanford University, said in an interview with CNET at the time. "We have figured out an entirely new approach to making meat that gives us the ability to deliberately control and make improvements in flavor, texture, juiciness, appearance, cooking properties, shelf life, handling, cost of production, nutrition -- you name it."

Impossible Food's ground beef will cost $8.99 for a 12-ounce package, roughly on par with USDA premium ground beef. A 4-ounce patty has 14 grams of total fat, 8 grams of saturated fat and 240 calories, which is also similar to a conventional burger.

Impossible Foods said it plans to add more grocery retailers on the East Coast later this month and will then be available in supermarkets across the country by mid-2020.

Originally published Sept. 19, 6:00 a.m. PT.
Update, 6:41 p.m.: Adds comment from Eric Schiffer, CEO of Reputation Management Consultants.