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We recently tuned into an invite-only virtual media conference featuring Impossible Foods’ most senior executives including CEO & Founder Pat Brown, CFO David Lee, CCO Rachel Konrad and Senior VP of International Nick Halla, where they officially announced the debut of the Impossible Sausage in Hong Kong – marking the first time the product has been launched outside of the U.S. But that wasn’t the only revelation the famous plant-based brand made. Below, we pick out some of the juiciest details that were dished out on record.
1. Impossible Foods has “no interest” in competing with Beyond Meat
During the conference, Impossible’s founder and CEO Pat Brown set the record straight about Beyond Meat, the plant-based company widely considered as the brand’s arch rival. “We are not interested in competing with Beyond Meat. We wish them all the success in the world. As far as I’m concerned, the consumers we’re after are the vast majority of consumers out there who aren’t eating any plant-based products. So the entry of any plant based product on the market is a good thing – it’s incrementally competing against animal-based foods.”
We are not interested in competing with Beyond Meat. We wish them all the success in the world.Pat Brown, Impossible Foods Founder & CEO
2. Works are underway for Impossible Foods to enter the Chinese market
“We are making a lot of progress entering mainland China,” Brown said without hesitation. “China, like any other country, takes great care to make sure its food supply is safe and nutritious for its citizens. And because we are launching a new product – an entirely new category of plant-based meat that actually replicates meat at the molecular level – the regulatory authorities in China need to review it and the safety behind it. It’s going well, but it takes time and there is work on developing a regulatory framework for plant-based meats. We’re participating in the process and waiting for its conclusion.”
3. Impossible “absolutely” has plans to set up a production & supply chain in China
When asked about whether the food tech has any plans to establish their own manufacturing footprint in China, the founder and CEO made it pretty clear that this will be a major part of Impossible’s growth strategy. “We absolutely intend to do that,” said Brown, who added that as soon as the company gets regulatory approval, it will begin work “immediately” to set up not just a manufacturing facility, but to also “build a domestic supply chain for ingredients.”
The big win for China is to replace its animal-based meat supply… with meat produced domestically without requiring imports or imported ingredients – all produced in China by Chinese farmers and workers with us providing the technology and working with partners to set this up. This is absolutely at the heart of our plan to build a China-based industry and ecosystem.Pat Brown, Impossible Foods Founder & CEO
“The big win for China is to replace its animal-based meat supply, which is an environmental disaster and public health nightmare, with meat produced domestically without requiring imports or imported ingredients – all produced in China by Chinese farmers and workers with us providing the technology and working with partners to set this up. This is absolutely at the heart of our plan to build a China-based industry and ecosystem.”
4. Retail launch in Asia is planned for this year
Sharing about Impossible’s plans to grow its presence in Asia, Nick Halla, SVP International of Impossible who is based in Hong Kong, told reporters that “we’re planning to launch retail here in Q4.” He went on to add that there was “big demand” during the coronavirus pandemic when Impossible gave the go-ahead for its restaurant partners to sell their stock to consumers, so “consumers are going to be all over this” when retail finally launches in Asia.
Plus, Halla revealed that Impossible is open to working with local consumer brands to create new retail products. “That is the next step for us in Asia. As we grow, our mission is to produce products and deliver where anybody consumes meat today and that means partnering with anyone. We partner with restaurants right now, from Little Bao to Beef & Liberty to Starbucks today. We will also partner with consumer goods brands.”
5. The Asia market is “critical” to Impossible’s mission and investor’s returns
With Asia being more than 44% of total protein demand, and China being 28%, it’s natural that this market is seen as critical.David Lee, Impossible Foods CFO
It’s well-known that Impossible has been incredibly successful in attracting investment all over the world. The company’s latest US$200 million Series G injection brings its total funds raised to almost US$1.5 billion since its inception – a record for the alternative protein industry. The reason behind it is the food tech’s mission to upend the animal-based protein supply chain, says David Lee, CFO at Impossible Foods, and at the core of achieving this is the enormous Asia market and the opportunity that it presents.
“From the very beginning, our investors have always been looking at global solutions to global problems,” he explained. “What they saw in Impossible Foods was a company solving a huge urgent need with technology that had an advantage not just for our mission but for their returns, with Asia being more than 44% of total protein demand, and China being 28%, it’s natural that this market is seen as critical.”
6. And a part of achieving this mission in Asia is Impossible Pork
So how does Impossible plan to capture the Asian market and make animal meat irrelevant in the continent? Impossible Pork. The startup debuted it earlier this year at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, and it’s going to be its star product targeting Asian consumers – the biggest consumers of pork in the world. “We debuted Impossible’s plant-based ground pork at the CES to rave reviews. We’ve had chefs test the product and love the product and it competes head-on-head with pork from a pig,” said Halla. “This is a product that is really important to Asia. There isn’t a set date on when this will launch but it will be an important category for us.”
We debuted Impossible’s plant-based ground pork at the CES to rave reviews. We’ve had chefs test the product and love the product and it competes head-on-head with pork from a pig.Nick Halla, Impossible Foods SVP International
7. Hong Kong remains a special place for the brand
“We picked Hong Kong as the first place outside of the U.S. [for Impossible Sausage] because we have a long history of doing exclusive premieres in Hong Kong. It’s an amazing market for us,” said Rachel Konrad, CCO at Impossible Foods. When asked about whether this remains true given the political situation and the introduction of the National Security Law in the city, founder Brown was unusually hesitant but went on to explain that despite there being places where he is “not fully aligned with the politics, that doesn’t stop us from pursuing our mission there.”
“If we said there needs to be a political litmus test, we won’t save the world from environmental disaster,” he added. “I understand that there are a lot of complications in politics in Hong Kong, and we’ll just have to see. As long as the people of Hong Kong have the same receptivity to great new food products and we have access to the market, it’s going to be essential to our mission. As long as it doesn’t isolate itself from the world, it’s still a great place to launch our products because of its culinary richness. This is a very complicated question that I don’t have a great answer to. We aren’t going to turn our backs from Hong Kong.”
8. GMO is not going to be an issue for Impossible’s global expansion
“We’re not restricted by how our food is made or the fact we use GMO yeast to make it. Most countries have widespread GMO microorganism and yeast ingredients – that’s true globally,” Brown told reporters. “There’s a widespread belief that some countries are categorically opposed but as a fact of the matter, that is no. We expect we’re going to be able to sell our products anywhere in the world.”
9. Impossible’s founder has strong words for those who say animal meat is healthier
Brown later also defended Impossible against critics who say that its plant-based meats are unhealthy because they are processed. “What consumers care about when talking about processing is effectively reflecting their concern about the nutritional value of the product. So let’s look at the nutritional value of our product and whether it’s healthy. Impossible Sausage, for example, is a good source of protein, but it is a great source of iron, better than pork from a pig, it has significantly lower calories and fat, significantly lower saturated fat and zero cholesterol and all the micronutrients you get from animal meat. If you want to talk about processes, why don’t you look at the gruesome process of meat made from pigs? It’s an unhealthy one at that.”
If you want to talk about processes, why don’t you look at the gruesome process of meat made from pigs? It’s an unhealthy one at that.Pat Brown, Impossible Foods Founder & CEO
10. There are no plans to go public yet
“We’re not announcing an IPO,” said Lee, quashing rumours. “Our investors like Temasek expect us to operate at the highest standard, so we exist and operate as if we’re public. And today we’re not announcing an IPO or direct listing.”
Lead image courtesy of Impossible Foods / designed by Green Queen Media.