Impossible Burger becomes gluten-free in new reformulation
Impossible Foods is introducing a new formulation of its plant-based Impossible Burger, the company announced. The next-generation recipe has switched out textured wheat protein for soy protein concentrate, so the product has no gluten and also no animal hormones or antibiotics.
A quarter-pound patty of the revamped product contains 240 calories, 14 grams of total fat and no cholesterol, the company says. In contrast, a quarter-pound 80/20 patty of real beef has 290 calories, 23 grams of total fat and 80 mg of cholesterol.
The new formulation debuted Monday at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas and at selected restaurants. The retail launch is expected sometime later this year, Impossible Foods said. The company's chief communications officer, Rachel Konrad, told Food Navigator that its schedule is still on track despite the company having to get pre-market approval from the Food and Drug Administration because of its heme ingredient, which gives the uncooked product a red color.
This new recipe marks the California-based startup's first major product upgrade since its original plant-based meat alternative debuted in 2016. The company said the reformulation comes after years of research, including third-party taste tests around the country with consumers who called themselves heavy meat eaters.
Tasters were given Impossible Burgers without buns or condiments, were not told whether it was plant- or animal-based and asked how well they liked it. They then did the same with ground beef patties from a major grocery chain. The company said that, based on aggregated data from more than 1,500 consumers in these sensory tests, the new product's "likeability" rating rivals that of conventional burgers.
Impossible Foods had several reasons for developing this new recipe, according to the company. The reformulated product is more adaptable and can be used in any dish that uses ground meat, while the original was "custom-designed for flat-top cooking at restaurants."
Also, the new version is made with soy protein instead of wheat protein, which caters to consumers who don't want to eat wheat or gluten. Additional recipe changes include reducing the salt content, replacing some coconut oil with sunflower oil and removing konjac gum and xanthan gum, Food Navigator reported. Such alterations are likely to appeal to consumers who increasingly look for foods free from certain ingredients — including antibiotics, pesticides and gluten.
"Impossible Burger fans told us loud and clear they wanted a gluten-free burger that was at least as nutritious as meat from animals,” David Lee, the company's chief operations officer and chief financial officer, said in a statement. "Our new product delivers all the taste meat lovers crave — without compromise to nutrition or the planet."
Impossible Foods seems to be trying to transmit as much transparency as possible when it comes to product ingredients, which is another value consumers hold dear. Whether the company will be able to successfully compete with the Beyond Burger or Nestlé's new Incredible Burger with this reformulated recipe is another matter. Nestlé's product, scheduled to debut this spring under the company's Garden Gourmet brand, contains soy and wheat protein. The Beyond Burger is made with pea protein isolate, so the latter distinction could be an advantage for those trying to avoid wheat or soy.
Regardless of ingredient lists, plant-based meat alternatives are continuing to win over consumers, whether they are vegans, vegetarians, or dedicated omnivores. Sales of plant-based foods jumped 20% in the past year to more than $3.3 billion, according to data from Nielsen and the Plant Based Foods Association. Plant-based meat alternatives totaled $670 million in sales — which was a 24% jump compared to 6% in 2017.