Bleeding Edge: Rival Meatless Burger Brands Gain Traction


Impossible Burger

Americans are gobbling up premium hamburgers like Smashburger, but they’re also coming on to its antithesis: plant-based burgers that look and act like beef patties.

While there are long-time entries in the plant-based burger category such as Morningstar Farms, startups Impossible Burger and Beyond Meat have quickly built up momentum because they’ve tried to imitate actual meat burgers more closely than anyone else, including using beet juice and other ingredients so that their burgers “bleed” on the grill. According to Nielsen, the sale of plant-based foods grew 8.1% in the past year.

Interestingly, Bill Gates is an investor in both startups. Now, Beyond Burger has scored a major coup by striking a distribution deal with Sysco, which supplies thousands of restaurants, schools, hospitals and other outlets with food.

Beyond Burger also is getting traction with individual restaurant chains, including making it onto the menu of TGI Friday’s.

“Friday’s is constantly innovating to appeal to an array of tastes and lifestyles, which includes offering more options,” said Stephanie Perdue, TGI Friday’s CMO, in a press release. “We tested many concepts and the Beyond Burger was far and away the favorite plant-based burger among both our guests and chefs, making it the ideal addition to our popular Burger Bar.”

Meanwhile, rival Impossible Foods has been added to the menu of California-based fast casual startup The Counter, which offers burgers made from any of 8 proteins, 33 signature toppings and a variety of other ingredients which, the chain said, allow consumers to make up to a million different combinations. Typically, Impossible Burger has taken the route of partnering with chefs and higher-end restaurants.

“The Counter ditches convention and encourages customers to build a burger uniquely suited to their taste—from the protein to the patty,” said Impossible Foods founder Patrick Brown, an emeritus professor from Stanford, in a press release. “Our missions are well-aligned, and we’re excited that The Counter will introduce plant-based cuisine to millions of die-hard burger enthusiasts.”

All this is making advocates such as One Green Planet swoon over the significance of such burgers believes it believes that “the future of food is plant-based.”