The plant-based Impossible Burger is now on menus in roughly 10,000 restaurants, from Burger King and David Chang’s Nishi to White Castle and Cheesecake Factory. In September, the company plans to take the next step toward making its meat-like burger mainstream—selling it in grocery stores.
When the company launched the latest version of the product (a recipe beefy enough that consumers rated it as highly as conventional ground beef burgers in taste tests), they had to deal with a steep growth in demand. Burger King wanted to sell the burgers at more than 7,000 restaurants. Some restaurants couldn’t keep the product in stock. The company since ramped up production at its Oakland factory, doubling the number of workers there. And today it announced that it was partnering with OSI Group, one of the world’s largest food producers, to expand production further.
The company also received a key approval from the FDA for an ingredient called soy leghemoglobin or “heme”—something that gives the burgers their characteristically meaty flavor and the raw product its bloody appearance. Last year, the FDA issued a “no questions” letter for the ingredient’s use in a cooked product in restaurants—at the time, the only way that the burgers were sold. Now, approval extends to direct-to-consumer sales. “Should no objections be raised, the direct-to-consumer sale of uncooked, red-colored ground beef analogue products containing soy leghemoglobin will be allowed,” the FDA said in a statement.
Impossible Foods hasn’t yet announced which stores will be first to sell the product. Competitor Beyond Meat sells its own plant-based patties at Safeway, Kroger, Publix, and other major grocery chains—in the meat aisle, because the newest plant-based meat companies are aiming to reach omnivores, not vegetarians.