Food & Beverage

Impossible Foods is launching meatless pork and sausage as it prepares for a global push

Key Points
  • Impossible Foods announced at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas that it will introduce meatless ground pork and sausage this year.
  • Select Burger King restaurants will test the new Impossible Sausage in Croissan'wiches later in January.
  • But for Impossible, the real opportunity could lie in China, the world's top pork consumer.
Burger King's Impossible Croissan'wich
Source: Burger King

Impossible Foods, the company known for its vegetarian Impossible Burger, said Monday that it plans to launch meatless ground pork and sausage as the company turns its focus to international expansion in 2020.

Impossible Sausage will debut later in January at 139 Burger King restaurants in Savannah, Georgia; Lansing, Michigan; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Montgomery, Alabama, and Springfield, Illinois, in the Impossible Croissan'wich.

The meatless pork sausage could help Burger King, which faces more competition for breakfast customers as rival Wendy's plans to roll out its early morning menu nationwide later in 2020. Burger King, owned by Restaurant Brands International, has been selling Impossible's meatless burger nationwide since August, helping its same-store sales jump 4.8% during the third quarter.

Impossible makes the majority of its revenue by selling its meatless burgers and ground beef to restaurants, although its burgers can be found in about 150 U.S. grocery stores. With Impossible Pork, the company's new ground meatless pork product, however, the real opportunity could lie in China, the world's top pork consumer.

African swine fever has wiped out as much as half of China's pig population, putting pressure on global pork supply and prices. That could make consumers more willing to try a pork alternative.

But gaining regulatory approval could be a hurdle. Impossible's meatless beef products are sold in Hong Kong and Macau but have not yet received approval to sell in mainland China.

"We'll be there as soon as possible once we get approval," said Rachel Konrad, spokeswoman for Impossible.

As with Impossible's other product, the Impossible Burger, Impossible Pork will contain soy leghemoglobin, produced from genetically modified yeast and also referred to as heme. The ingredient helps Impossible closely mimic the taste and aroma of real meat but has also led to delays in expanding its footprint as it waits for approval from regulators. The Food and Drug Administration approved heme as a color additive in September, clearing the way for Impossible to sell its burgers in grocery stores.

To nail its imitation of pork, Impossible's scientists had to reverse engineer a meat with a more subtle taste and higher fat content than beef.

"We turned up the volume on fat and changed the texture and turned down the heme," Konrad said.

Impossible Pork is also gluten-free and designed for kosher and halal certification.

Impossible Foods made the announcement Monday at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, where attendees will get the chance to be the first to try Impossible Pork. The privately held rival of Beyond Meat took the top prize at CES in 2019 for its Impossible Burger 2.0, becoming the first food company to ever do so.

While pork is the most consumed meat worldwide, it is America's third-favorite meat, falling behind beef and chicken. In the U.S., it is most associated with sausage. That's in part why Impossible is introducing its pork first through Impossible Sausage with Burger King. Beyond Meat already sells plant-based sausage products and has partnerships with Dunkin' and Restaurant Brands International's Tim Hortons.

Impossible plans to start selling the ground pork first in restaurants, following the same game plan as with its vegan burgers. It has yet to share the exact timing and locations of where Impossible Pork will be sold.

In 2019, as restaurants raced to add meatless burgers to their menus, the company struggled to keep up with demand. It has since struck a production deal with OSI Group, a large meat supplier.

Not everyone is thrilled about the company's meatless expansion. As burgers from Impossible and Beyond have exploded in popularity, cattle farmers have pushed back, lobbying for laws that restrict the companies' ability to use words associated with "meat" and running ads that call the products "ultra processed."

Konrad said that the company anticipates similar pushback from pig farmers.

China is a 'perfect opportunity' for Impossible Foods: CEO
China is a 'perfect opportunity' for Impossible Foods: CEO