Restaurant Brands International CEO Jose Cil on the launch of the Impossible Whopper at Burger King worldwide.
Impossible Foods is taking on one of the world’s biggest meat-eating markets: China.
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The California-based maker of plant-based meat wants to feed the growing demand for meat alternatives in China where water and land used for agriculture is becoming increasingly scarce, and the price of pork is skyrocketing, the company’s chief executive told Reuters.
Impossible Foods has already rolled out products in Hong Kong and Macau, and ships to 450 restaurants in Asia. Now, it wants to beef up its presence throughout China.
“China is our highest priority for future expansion, full stop,” Pat O’Brown, the company’s CEO, told Reuters, adding: “It is the biggest consumer of meat in the world. Something like half the growth in meat consumption globally in the past 10 years or so has been in China. Effectively, the place where we can have the greatest impact on our mission is in China.”
Impossible Foods, which makes plant-based foods like meatless burgers that look and bleed like real meat using the molecule heme, has attracted a national audience for its country-wide rollout of the Impossible Whopper at more than 7,000 Burger King locations, charging $1 more than the beef version. It also sells its Impossible Sliders at White Castle. The company aims to roll out in supermarkets next, keeping up with its biggest competitor, Los Angelo’s-based Beyond Meat, which serves similar products like plant-based beef crumbles, sausage, burgers and chicken at Whole Foods and in chains like Tex-Mex restaurant Del Taco and KFC. Beyond Meat has not yet started selling products in China.
O’Brown said Impossible Foods will likely move some production into Asia, Reuters reported. China’s meat-eating consumption is lower than the U.S., however, the demand for it is increasing, and it’s driving up meat prices. The country produced 54 million tons of pork in 2018, and is slated to churn out only 40 million tons this year. Pork prices have gone up by 50 percent, soaring more than $2.25 per pound, according to the Washington Post.
What's more, beef production in China has also soared to its highest level in at least two decades last year at 6.44 million tons.
The plant-based meat explosion has prompted mainstream food giants like Tyson, Kellogg’s and Hormel to invest in similar products to keep up with the market.
The Food and Drug Administration announced in July the approval of a key ingredient in meatless meat, soy leghemoglobin, as a safe color additive in imitation beef. The change went into effect Sept. 4.