Welcome back to Products Worth Talking About — the show about disruptive physical products and the people who built them. Today, two carnivores will try to figure out what all the hype is about surrounding alternative meats. Do they taste like real meat? Are they as healthy as they claim? What’s behind the scenes making these companies have such explosive growth?
Firstly, let’s look at some stats for this booming industry, which seems to be everywhere right now, including commercials on TV! We started digging into it, and the stats are mind-blowing.
Today, we’re talking about companies that have revolutionized a once-boring industry that has had alternative hamburgers and burgers into something truly disruptive!. Let’s take a deeper look at their success.
Impossible Foods was founded in 2011 by Patrick Brown. They’ve got 370 employees on LinkedIn and are based out of Redwood City, California. From what we can tell, they’ve received $600 million in funding from big players — Google, Bill Gates, even some foreign entities that are significant players too. However, they’re still a private company.
The story behind Impossible Foods begins in 2009 — professor Patrick Brown, the founder, was adamant about changing the treatment of animals in traditional farming. He held some conferences and tried to get people engaged with this issue and realized people didn’t care. That led to him deciding to create a plant-based hamburger to compete with traditional hamburgers that would lessen the negative impact on animals.
We’ll dive deeper into their strategy later on in the article, but they’ve already built unique relationships with international food chains, like Burger King!
For this episode, we decided to have the Impossible Burger and Bowl from Burger King.
We were very impressed after cutting it in half to share — the Impossible Whopper looks just like a regular Whopper. The burger has standard toppings like mayo, pickles, tomato, lettuce, and it certainly delivers on the taste!
The texture is spot-on because it has these little pieces and chunks like a traditional beef Whopper would have. It tastes delicious and even has that flame-broiled pattern on the patty!
Next, we tried the well-seasoned bowl, potentially covering up its not-meat through spices, which enhanced the overall flavor. In the bowl, we have tomatoes, onions, a little bit of rice, some ground Impossible meat, and with the seasoning, it tastes like taco meat. These two carnivores are very impressed with this plant-based wizardry.
The impossible whopper was $5.59 (burger only) and $9.99 for the meal. The bowl was $9.99 Next time you take a trip to Burger King, give it a try!
Beyond Meat was founded in 2009 by Ethan Brown ( Yup — we noticed it too — the same last name as Patrick! Don’t worry — it’s just a coincidence that they have the same last name.) LinkedIn says they have 272 employees and are based out of El Segundo, California.
They’re snowballing as a public company. Their recorded funding so far, according to Crunchbase, is $122 million from seven different rounds. Bill Gates is in this one too! It’s interesting — Tyson foods, one of the largest chicken producers in America, also invested. The Humane Society also invested, which makes sense due to their cause.
Beyond Meat did $88 million in revenue in 2018, but their stock market valuation puts them at $11 billion in value! They’ve recently launched Beyond Fried Chicken with KFC in Atlanta and sold out in five hours.
They’ve joined forces with Subway, coupled with the five or six restaurant chains and the regional chains — they’re trying to put their product in front of as many people as possible, and we think it’s an excellent move.
We took this episode of Products Worth Talking About out onto the deck — Traeger Grill style. We grilled the Beyond Meat Italian sausage and the burgers for our taste-test. The burgers packages have two patties, each with 20 grams of plant protein, while there are four sausages per packet, each with 14 grams. We bought this at Whole Foods in the refrigerated section.
The hot Italian sausage texture is grainier than a usual sausage, but it tastes like good hot Italian sausage though!
They’ve managed to mimic the juices you’d get from cutting into a burger by using beets. It’s a bit weird; we won’t lie. The texture is close to a regular burger, and it has the smoky kind of flavor to it (or maybe that’s just from the grill?) Traeger grills don’t get that hot, so we wonder if crisping it up a bit on a more searing grill might have made it that extra bit better. We rate this far better than previous plant-based patties on the market — those were horrible!
From a health perspective, they’re very similar to what you would find in a plant-based “meat.” Each product has fat inside to feel comparable to animal protein so that you believe you’re eating a hamburger. It’s not just vegans and vegetarians they’re after — Beyond Meat is trying to entice meat-eaters too through the juiciness to it, the flavor, the texture.
We’re certainly not nutritionists, but we can’t imagine that all the ingredients used to recreate these flavors and tastes to mimic meat are 100% good for you. Keep in mind that we’re taking it purely from the standpoint of being an alternative to meat, so before you purchase, consult with a nutritionist or do some research to ensure its the right product for you
The four sausages were $9, which seems twice as expensive as a beef patty from Walmart – bearing in mind this is also Whole Foods, which is on the high-end of grocery stores.
Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat are titans in the industry competing against each other to be the biggest, making this episode interesting to analyze because their focus is on the number of restaurants and retailers. The lack of advertising proves that industry relationships are more fundamental than individual engagement.
Here, we usually look at their overall website traffic. Being direct to consumer sellers ourselves, we evaluate Amazon and website sales, which isn’t happening here with these two companies.
Impossible Food is getting 780,000 people a month; that data is coming from SpyFu.
Beyond Meat has 558,000 roughly per month; interestingly, both have 70% of their traffic from searches.
People either hear about them, a friend tells them, or they search for where they can get it, which explains why both have a store locator for restaurants or grocery stores that sell these alternative meats. Beyond Meat did it slightly better for us on their website, but here’s an interesting fact about Impossible Foods: Since they released Impossible Whopper, foot traffic in Burger King as a complete system has increased 18%.
We do find that both the companies are hiding a few of their ingredients. We would like to see that right on that front page or very quickly break down the ingredients to build awareness about their brand and educate their consumers.
The mission statements are essential. Beyond Meat has a clear tab for this, and it’s easy to find. Impossible Foods is a bit trickier — it’s labeled under “Sustainability” and then found in their blog section within “Sustainability” — it’s not front and center like Beyond Meat. Impossible Foods website feels more like a news site, giving us tons of information about the product and the scientific information about the impact on the planet (including an impact calculator).
After taking all of these statistics and our subjective opinions into account, we give our final score — the Beer Score (AKA which founder we want to find and have a beer with).
RT gave Impossible Foods a 7/10, and Tyler gave them a 9/10.
RT gave Beyond Meat a 9/10, and Tyler gave them a 7/10.
Comparing packaging was tough because Impossible Burger wrapping is Burger King’s packaging, versus Beyond Meat selling it through their grocery store. It’s apples and oranges, but Beyond Meat impressed us with how they make their packaging stand out against traditional meat products.
We’re not sure whose idea it was — but wrapping the Impossible Whopper inside a blue or purple package versus the normal whoppers white paper makes it pop. We think it looks better than the original!
RT favored Beyond Meat simply because, as a meat-eater, he’s already straying out of his lane buying plant-based, and so the packaging felt safe and inviting to try.
RT gave Impossible Foods a 6/10, and Tyler gave them a 7/10.
RT gave Beyond Meat an 8/10, and Tyler gave them an 8/10.
Beyond Meat scored higher on social for us because they’re using influencers, building that trust factor. Impossible Foods are doing less direct social engagement themselves and more through Burger King.
RT gave Impossible Foods a 9/10, and Tyler gave them a 7/10.
RT gave Beyond Meat a 6/10, and Tyler gave them an 8/10.
The co-branding with Burger King on the Impossible Whopper feels as massive a win as the Big Mac at McDonald’s. The Impossible Burger was everywhere on the internet, and you can’t buy that. This is what scored them so high for RT.
On the other hand, Tyler feels that Beyond Meat knows they’re in a race and are running faster. Whomever they’re talking to at the corporate level — Subway, KFC, etc. — they’re winning that game.
RT gave Impossible Foods a 10/10! Tyler gave them an 8/10.
RT gave Beyond Meat a 10/10 as well, while Tyler gave them a 9/10.
RT feels both of them are doing something nuts because everything they’re doing is disruptive. They’re taking something that should be almost impossible to sell to people like us who love meat and eat it with every meal and try to avoid salads.
Once again, Tyler feels that Beyond Meat edges out Impossible in the long-game. Once the coolness factor wears off, that’s when the real business begins. What happens remains to be seen, but it will definitely be interesting.
Beyond Meat! Overall with a beer score of 65, Beyond Meats beats Impossible Foods by a slender 2 points, at 63 on the beer table. That means we have to find the founder of Beyond Meat, so anyone who knows him — put us in touch! We would be fascinated to have an in-depth look into the journey he’s been on to get this far.
On Products Worth Talking About, our mission is to not only give you reliable information on disruptive products but also give you valuable insight into what makes great businesses successful! In this episode, we both had several takeaways that we plan to apply to our own businesses.
Tyler’s big takeaway for REBL Jane is:
RT’s big takeaway is:
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Thanks for reading! Until next time — go try those plant-based burgers and let us know what you think!
RT and Tyler