- The Impossible Burger and Beyond Meat are two new food tech companies that are focused on replicating the taste of beef using plant-based alternatives.
- The goal is a plant based meat that looks, smells, tastes, and even bleeds like real beef
- Beyond Meat has embraced a traditional retail / grocer model (e.g. Whole Foods, Target) whereas the Impossible Burger is only available (currently) in select restaurants*
Companies such as the Impossible Burger and Beyond Meat are on the bleeding edge (no pun intended) of technology to develop innovative ways to create a sustainable, vegan product that satisfies the need and desires of meat eaters while most importantly sparing the environment from the enormous resource demands required to produce beef. From an environmental standpoint, raising livestock for the sole purpose of meat consumption is damaging to the planet as a whole. A recent study by PETA found that over 1/3 of all raw materials in the United States is necessary for the raising and consumption of livestock. The amount of arable dedicated to ranch grazing coupled with the enormous burden of fresh water to produce beef is an unsustainable model should global population continue to grow.
One thing to note for both products, these are NOT the soy / veggie burgers you may be accustomed to. The aim of each is to replicate the flavor, sear, and look of a traditional beef burger. Both were formulated using different combinations of proteins (wheat, soy, pea) as well as various binding agents. Due to some clever bio-engineering, both will actually bleed when cut — due to the addition of beets which gives each the realistic coloring necessary.
Both companies are backed and funded by some powerful partners. Beyond Meat most notably notes Leonardo DiCaprio and Bill Gates as early seed investors. They boast other meat alternatives such as their pork sausages, chicken strips, and ground beef crumbles. They are available at most major grocers and have sold over 13 million patties nationwide.
Impossible Foods is a newer entrant (est. 2011) that raised $75M in 2017 via a convertible note and recently raised a whopping $114M in venture capital funding. It’s available at over 5,000 restaurants across the US. You can find a restaurant that serves their products via their locator. Impossible Foods is seeking to offer not only alternative to ground meat, but plant based meat substitutes for chicken, eggs, fish, and steak. They are even working on a substitute for cheese.
- Looks / smells great! No different than a real burger
- Great sear / char
- Initial taste is very close to a real burger
- A bit dry, even when cooked to a medium / medium-well temperature
- Did not “bleed” realistically
- After taste and texture was closer to a veggie burger than a real one
We bought two patties from our local Whole Foods. The cost was around $5 and they were located in a refrigerated cooler. We cooked one of the burgers on a nonstick pan on our stovetop. What became clear right away was the sizzle that we heard upon placing the burger on the pan. It felt like we were cooking a regular burger. We dropped a slice of sharp cheddar on top about a minute before we felt it was done.
We then placed the fully cooked burger on a Sesame roll with lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and sliced dill pickle. Topped it with a bit of mayo and ketchup to complete the build.
Honestly, when looking at it from afar it was indistinguishable from a real burger. When we took the initial bite, we were even more shocked as the crunch and “bleed” was eerily similar to a burger. There were a few areas we took issue with. Even though we cooked it to a medium (pink middle), it tasted a bit dry — more than we were expecting. Additionally, the after taste just didn’t taste right. It certainly didn’t taste bad but it didn’t taste quite like a burger.
- Looks / smells great! No different than a real burger
- Excellent meat-like texture
- After taste is super juicy with an eerily rich meat-like flavor
- Sear / char was just ‘ok’
- Did not bleed but did have a realistic pinkish hue when cooked medium / medium-well
- Unavailable (currently) for retail purchase
Whereas the Beyond Meat Burger is available at a grocer the Impossible Burger is not. For now, Impossible Burger is only available at select restaurants. To find the closest restaurant that serves one, you can use their finder here. The closest restaurant to us that served the Impossible Burger was a Bar Louie (Chicago bar / restaurant chain). One of the more partners is White Castle which now proudly carries the Impossible Burger. Our waiter told us that they had actually upgraded to a new recipe of the Impossible Burger, i.e. Version 2. We were told that a number of changes were made to give the burger an even more realistic, burger like taste.
We ordered one with the same bun / extras as our Beyond Burger to keep the comparison as close as possible.
The first thing we noticed is that the Impossible Burger passed the eye-test. It looked exactly like a regular burger. Upon first bite, we noticed that the texture and crunch was amazing. We didn’t notice the bleed that we did with the Beyond Burger but it still was juicy and incredibly meat-like. The after-taste is what really astounded us. That mouthwatering, ‘umami’ taste you remember with a burger was eerily almost the same. We believe this is due to the addition of “heme”. Long story short, the reason meat tastes like meat is because of this protein that you’ll found in all meat. The scientists at Impossible Burger have somehow replicated this molecule via plant based meat substitutes and the result is seriously incredible.
Like we said, our one major regret is that the Impossible Burger is not available for retail purchase. Not to fret as we were been told that it will be available at most major grocers as early as March 2019.
If you would have told us even 3 years ago, that a realistic, “meat-like” veggie burger existed, we would have looked upon it with a lot of skepticism. However, the Impossible Burger and the Beyond Burger have more than exceeded our expectations. Though we really liked certain parts of the Beyond Meat burger, we have to give the nod to the Impossible Burger. The addition of the magical ‘heme’ protein is what puts it over the edge. The after-taste is so close to the real thing. Had we done a blind taste test, we would honestly not have been able to tell the difference.