In a video announcing the arrival of Impossible Pork and the Impossible Sausage (unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week) founder and CEO Dr Pat Brown said: “Beef is popular around the world, but in many cultures, the most popular, familiar and common dishes use pork as the main source of meat, so for us to have an impact in those markets, pork was a necessity.
“Our mission it to completely replace animals in the food system by 2035, and expanding our impact globally is a critical part of that.”
Like the Impossible Burger, the Impossible Sausage is made with soy protein concentrate as its core ingredient, and contains the firm’s flagship ingredient soy leghemoglobin, a protein that carries the iron-containing molecule ‘heme,’ which Dr Brown argues ”makes meat taste uniquely like meat."
The Impossible Sausage will debut in 139 Burger King restaurants in Georgia, Michigan, Illinois, New Mexico and Alabama next week, while no launch date has been given for Impossible Pork. The San Francisco-based firm has not yet released a full ingredients list for either product.
Nutrition and plant-based pork
While some critics have queried whether plant-based burgers are better for you than beef burgers, the nutrition credentials of plant-based sausage compare more favorably with their pork-based counterparts, with the Beyond Sausage patty containing more protein and iron, 44% less saturated fat, 50% less total fat and 37% less sodium than a leading pork sausage patty, according to Beyond Meat.
The Impossible Sausage and Impossible Pork also compare favorably to conventional pork and sausage in the nutrition stakes, claimed Caroline Bushnell, associate director of corporate engagement at The Good Food Institute, which promotes plant-based and cell-cultured meat.
"They offer 50-70% more protein as a percentage of calories and more than three times the iron, but with zero cholesterol, fewer calories, less than half the total fat, and significantly less saturated fat."
Plant-based meat hits the mainstream
As for commercial viability, Impossible Foods has only recently entered the retail market, but has proved that there is a market for plant-based meat in mainstream fast food outlets, securing a nationwide rollout at Burger King in August 2019 after a successful trial.
The plant-based burger has been “a huge hit with our guests,” said Jose Cil, CEO at Burger King’s owner Restaurant Brands International on the firm’s Q3 earnings call in late October: “It has quickly become one of the most successful product launches in Burger King's history. What's especially exciting is that sales… have been highly incremental and have attracted new types of guests."
Beyond Meat has also struck deals with some mainstream fast casual chains, securing a nationwide rollout of its Beyond Breakfast sandwich (featuring the Beyond Sausage) at Dunkin' and tests at KFC, Subway, and Denny's locations in Los Angeles.
US retail sales of plant-based pork grew 14% last year, says GFI
According to SPINS and Nielsen data, “Plant-based pork was one of the fastest-growing plant-based meat categories in dollar sales last year and surged 14% between 2018 and 2019," said the GFI's Bushnell.
"With current global pork shortages caused by the African Swine Flu crisis likely to accelerate demand for plant-based versions, we expect to see an explosion in the number of plant-based pork products available over the next couple of years," she added.
“This is a huge market opportunity for plant-based meat manufacturers, who are starting to look beyond the burger. If consumers adopt plant-based pork with the same vigor as other plant-based foods, the category could exceed $1.5 billion in U.S. retail alone within the next decade. Just imagine the opportunity when you factor in China, which consumes approximately half of the world’s pork,” she said.
The plant-based pork category is currently worth $130m and makes up 1% of the $12.7bn fresh pork and sausage market in US retail, according to SPINS and Nielsen data commissioned by the Good Food Institute and the Plant Based Foods Association.