- Impossible Foods flagship product, the Impossible Burger, will be sold at 1,700 grocery stores nationwide owned by Kroger starting today, the company announced. The plant-based meat is also available now for pickup and delivery at Kroger.com.
- With this expansion, the number of retail stores selling Impossible Foods’ products has increased 18-fold since the beginning of 2020, the company said. Impossible Foods, which started out in 2016 as a restaurant-only product, kicked off its retail push at a small handful of retailers last September. It’s now available at about 2,700 grocery stores nationwide.
- "The launch of Impossible Burger at Kroger grocery stores nationwide signals our intention to make Impossible Burger available everywhere America shops — at brick-and-mortar retailers and their increasingly popular online ordering and delivery services," Impossible Foods’ President Dennis Woodside said in a release. "Our existing retail partners have achieved record sales of Impossible Burger in recent weeks. We expect our retail footprint to expand more than 50-fold in 2020 alone, and we are moving as quickly as possible to expand with additional outlets and in more retail channels."
Impossible Foods, which uses science and R&D to make plant-based meat that looks, cooks and tastes close to the real thing, is quickly moving beyond restaurants.
"Our intention was always for 2020 to be the retail acceleration year, but we definitely accelerated it because of the decline in dining in," Chief Communications Officer Rachel Konrad told Food Dive last week.
Impossible Foods says its goal is to eliminate society's dependence on animal-based meat. It is working to get its products to be everywhere that its animal-based counterparts are. After all, Konrad said, Impossible Foods sees animal-based meat as its only true competition.
Landing in Kroger is a huge leap toward making Impossible ubiquitous in grocery stores. Konrad told Food Dive the company has been working with the nation’s largest grocery-based retailer for about a year. And for its part, she said, Kroger wanted to be the nation’s first large grocery network to carry the company’s plant-based meat.
“Kroger is synonymous with where people shop for food,” Konrad said.
Joe Grieshaber, Kroger’s senior vice president of merchandising, said the partnership provides another way it can connect consumers with more plant-based products.
"Plant-based food remains one of the fastest-growing categories at Kroger," he said in the statement. "We’re excited to continue growing our selection, especially as more customers than ever are purchasing meat products made from plants."
This is the second big retail expansion Impossible Foods has made so far in 2020. Last month, the company announced its products would be sold at 777 Albertsons-owned stores — Albertsons, Vons and Pavilions in Southern California, and Safeway stores in Northern California and Nevada.
Part of this expansion was made possible by a $500 million funding round that closed in March, which provided Impossible Foods with more funds to invest in research and innovation and scale up for a bigger push into retail.
But it was also made possible by the company’s partnership with co-packer OSI Group. Impossible Foods struck a manufacturing deal with one of the world’s largest food producers last July, ahead of its debut in retail stores. Prior to this partnership, there was a shortage of Impossible Burgers earlier last year. OSI, which has more than 65 facilities in 17 countries, gives Impossible Foods the bandwidth it needs to ensure that it will not see a shortage — even with a large retail customer like Kroger.
This retail expansion is coming at a particularly good time for plant-based meat. Meat plants are temporarily closing due to coronavirus outbreaks among workers and supply is under strain. And, as some grocery stores are limiting the amount of meat that shoppers can buy, a product that looks and tastes similar but does not fall under those limitations is bound to benefit. According to Nielsen data emailed to Food Dive, fresh plant-based meat had already seen sales increase by 269.5% in March and April, before many restrictions went into place. With more plant-based meat — and less actual meat — on shelves, it will be interesting to see how much more that number grows.