Two Impossible Foods products will mark the Bay Area food tech company’s highly anticipated European debut this week.
The Impossible Chicken Nuggets and Impossible Sausage Patties are available starting today at more than 300 locations in the U.K. The company says “thousands” of locations will follow later this year.
“The UK has a unique and unrivalled chicken shop culture that we’re confident our nuggets will compete in because first and foremost they taste better, and they’re also better for you and better for the planet,” said Peter McGuinness, CEO of Impossible Foods. “And there’s more to come — later this year we’ll be expanding to supermarkets and rolling out additional products. We can’t wait for our friends and fans in the UK to finally taste our products.”
Initial locations include Chicken Cottage, Halo Burger, Le Bab, MEATliquor, and Patty&Bun, among others. Later this month, the company says its products will launch at more than 250 Hungry Horse pubs owned by Greene King, the UK’s leading pub company and brewer.
Missing from the product lineup, however, is the brand’s signature product, the Impossible Burger. It’s been held up over concerns about heme—soy leghemoglobin—protein found in the root nodules of soy plants. Soy is already one of the most common GMO crops, but Impossible’s soy leghemoglobin comes from implanting soy genes into genetically-engineered yeast to create the iron-rich meat-like flavor and color.
While Impossible’s largest competitor, Southern California’s Beyond Meat, has seen wide distribution outside of the U.S., Impossible has struggled to get a foothold due in large part to the technology.
Impossible received the FDA’s GRAS status for heme in 2019, but the E.U. and U.K. have dragged their heels on approving it as genetic modification is more strictly regulated in Europe than in the U.S. Impossible filed with the European Food Safety Authority in 2019. Last October, it said it had also filed with the U.K. Food Standards Agency.
Last year, Christiana Figueres, the former U.N. climate chief, joined Impossible’s board to assist with the company’s growth goals, including European approvals.
“We have to change our eating habits,” Figueres told Politico last year. “We have to change our agricultural practices. We have to be able to bring the transformation in that sector to the same speed and scale that we have on the renewable energy side.”
Despite the delays, Impossible has been quickly picking up the pace, opening markets in Australia, New Zealand, and the United Arab Emirates since last fall.
Impossible says its new chicken products may help Brits reduce their chicken consumption and its impact on the climate. The company reports that 75 percent of Brits eat chicken weekly and nearly 90 percent monthly. Compared to conventional chicken, Impossible’s nuggets require 55 percent less water, 24 percent less land, and produce 24 percent fewer emissions while delivering 13 grams of protein per 100-gram serving and 25 percent less sodium.
According to company-led surveys, its vegan nuggets are preferred two-to-one by U.K. consumers. U.K.-based VFC has seen success with its vegan chicken nuggets, making its U.S. debut earlier this year. And after several successful vegan launches in the U.S. and Europe, KFC says it’s launching vegan chicken buckets in the U.K made with Quorn mycoprotein.
Impossible’s vegan sausages also boast environmental gains, requiring 88 percent less water, 77 percent less land, and producing 47 percent fewer emissions than pork sausages while delivering 5.6 grams protein, 2.5 grams fiber, and 1.1 milligrams iron per patty.
Correction: An earlier version of this article said that the Impossible Burger will be coming to European restaurants and stores later this year, but the company has clarified that there is no definitive launch date.
All photos courtesy of Impossible Foods.