When Impossible Foods ran a blind taste test in Hong Kong of its latest product, Impossible Pork—a plant-based version of ground pork that can be used in everything from steamed dumplings to spaghetti bolognese—consumers said that they preferred the plant-based pork to the real thing. On every attribute, including flavor, texture, appearance, and overall appeal, Impossible Pork had a higher score.
If the plant-based pork can begin to replace the version from pigs, that matters: Pork is the most widely eaten meat in the world. Impossible Foods, which started with a plant-based burger because of beef’s outsized environmental impact, wanted to work on pork next because of its massive scale. The new product, which is the winner of the food category of Fast Company’s 2022 World Changing Ideas awards, is another step toward the company’s audacious goal: Completely replacing the need for animal agriculture. If the world stopped consuming animal products, Impossible founder Pat Brown calculated in a peer-reviewed paper, global emissions could effectively be paused.
To make Impossible Pork, the company started with the tools it had used to develop its plant-based beef. “The way that we approach product development, and just research in general, is really to make technology platforms, so that we understand the different building blocks of animal products,” says Laura Kliman, director of new product development at Impossible Foods. “So we absolutely utilized our same technology platform that we had for ground beef for ground pork, and then, through a really deep understanding of what sensory attributes are different between those products and the functionality of the ingredients we use, we can pull different levers to change that sensory experience.”
Ground pork, she says, is both softer than ground beef and has a more neutral flavor. “It’s much more nuanced to get sort of that pork flavor and something that’s going to be really versatile in terms of the different culinary applications,” she says. “That was one of the biggest challenges. And I think we definitely accomplished that quickly.”
As when it first launched the Impossible Burger, the company has been rolling its pork out first in select restaurants, with a grocery product for consumers to follow later. David Chang used it in a ragù with spicy crab cakes at New York’s Momofuku Ssäm Bar; more than 120 restaurants have it on the menu in Singapore, and another 100 restaurants are serving it in Hong Kong.
In testing, the company made sure that it could be used across a range of culinary techniques. “The team really worked to make sure that it was performing in that exact same way as ground pork and can be steamed, or grilled, lots of different applications,” Kliman says. “Chefs can use the ground pork in the same way that they use ground pork from pigs.”