Impossible Foods debuts its first plant-based pork products, helped by Singapore chefs

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Tech correspondent Yip Wai Yee tries the Impossible Pork from Impossible Foods at CES 2020 in Las Vegas, and gives her take on a banh mi made with the plant-based food.
A banh mi sandwich made with a plant-based Impossible Pork patty at the Impossible Foods headquarters in US on Dec 19, 2019. PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK (BLOOMBERG) - Impossible Foods, maker of the eponymous "bleeding" soy-based burger, is debuting two faux-meat products at CES in Las Vegas: Impossible Pork and Impossible Sausage, ramping up the rivalry with Beyond Meat.

Impossible, based in Silicon Valley, plans to give away about 25,000 samples at the consumer electronics show this week, and its sausage will be rolled out starting in late January at 139 Burger King locations in five test markets.

The pork was developed with input from chefs in Hong Kong and Singapore. China, the world's biggest pork-consuming country, is also key to Impossible's future plans.

"Our mission is global, and with 40 per cent of meat being consumed in Asia we are very focused on ensuring we can enter major markets like China as soon as possible," chief financial officer David Lee said on Bloomberg Television. He said the company doesn't have a specific date at this point.

Like its non-beef burger, both of the pork products use soy as the primary ingredient and contain "heme," an iron-containing molecule that gives the products their meaty look and flavor and is made from a genetically modified yeast.

"Heme is the magic ingredient that drives all the meat flavor," Laura Kliman, a senior flavor scientist at Impossible, said in an interview. "Obviously the flavor of pork is very different from beef - there's less heme in pork. Heme is still the key driver, just different amounts of it."

There are also major textural differences that the company had to account for in its development. Pork is softer and springier than beef, Kliman said. While the ingredients for the pork, sausage and beef are similar, the actual formulations are different.

"It's all about balance - really understanding the science and functionality of the ingredients individually and as a system," she said.

As consumers gravitate toward plant-based foods, the companies making them are racing to keep up. Impossible's biggest competitor, Beyond Meat, has both beef and sausage products already on the market. Other companies, including Nestle, Conagra Brands, and even pork giant Smithfield Foods, have unveiled imitation meat products.

At Burger King, Impossible Sausage will be served as a patty on the new Impossible Croissan'wich, a toasted croissant with egg and cheese. The sandwich follows the success of the Impossible Whopper, which the burger chain says has sent new customers into its restaurants in droves. The sausage sandwich will be available in Savannah, Georgia; Lansing, Michigan; Springfield, Illinois; Albuquerque, New Mexico; and Montgomery, Alabama.

Impossible has yet to announce plans to sell its ground pork product.

Since its debut at New York's Momofuku Nishi in 2016, Impossible's burgers and beef are now served in more than 17,000 restaurants, cafeterias and other food-service operations in the US and Asia.

Impossible has long been driven by a mission to slow climate change: Livestock used in agriculture accounts for an estimated 14.5 per cent of all man-made greenhouse gases. While beef and dairy cattle are by far the biggest contributors, at 62 per cent of the sector's emissions, pigs are in second place, accounting for about 10 per cent, according to a UN agency. Yet they are much more widely consumed: the world ate about 120 million tonnes in 2018, compared to 70 million tonnes of beef and veal, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

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