I can’t tell you where, but I can tell you this: In early July, six of us from The Good Food Institute’s staff had a chance to try the Impossible Burger in all of its guac-slathered glory, and it was an experience for the books.
For those of you who don’t know, the Impossible Burger is the Great Gatsby of plant-based meat alternatives. It rose to fame quickly, was well-funded, and—because it hadn’t been released to the public until this past week—carries an air of glamorous mystery.
Accordingly, I’ve been fangirling from afar for the past few months as I read countless media reports about the “bleeding” beet-juice burger that’s poised to change the game for meat alternatives. I sat awestruck as Impossible Foods, the company that produces the burger, raised more than $180 million to support its groundbreaking process of analyzing and combining plant-proteins.
Impossible Foods takes the unique approach of looking at each veggie on a molecular level to see what best reproduces the color, taste, and texture of ground beef. The company also did what no other plant-based burger producer has attempted to do: isolate heme iron, the molecule that makes burgers “juicy,” from plant sources and add it to the mix.
Scientifically speaking, this thing puts my lentil-and-mushroom concoctions to shame.
Amid all of the hype, when the plate was set in front of me, I almost laughed at myself. To the untrained eye, this would be your run-of-the-mill In-N-Out burger and fries (plus a dainty side of homemade pickles).
And that, I realized, is the ultimate brilliance of the Impossible Burger. This isn’t a burger to wow a nutritionist or a food snob—this is a burger to totally hack the system. This humble-looking, high-tech patty could change the world by being a near-perfect replacement for the fast-food burger, but without the hormones, antibiotics, or environmental concerns inherent in conventional animal agriculture.
But I’m getting ahead of myself—let’s talk details. This burger is insanely close to the real thing. The mouthfeel was remarkably similar to a beef burger, with a satisfying fattiness and uniformity that you don’t find in other veggie burgers.
There’s zero trace of the vegetables that comprise it—no stray shroom, black bean, or green like you’d find with other brands. The color was also spot-on, with a nicely browned outer layer and slightly pink center. One of my fellow diners, a vegan veteran, couldn’t even take more than a few bites because the strong umami flavor was so much like the real thing.
And I might have had one more complaint if I had been footing the bill.
In fact, cost—not taste—is the final hurdle for the Impossible Burger. If the taste is close enough to gross out a vegan, it’s likely good enough to satisfy a devout carnivore. But to be a successful replacement for the classic fast-food hamburger, the Impossible Burger can’t come with the price tag of a high-end gourmet burger.
Case in point: The burger just made its East Coast debut at David Chang’s Momofuku Nishi at a steep $12 a tray. But no fear. Scaling production is well within Impossible’s reach, especially with big bucks flowing in from Khosla, Horizons, and Google Ventures.
And it’s one of the company’s key goals, as founder Pat Brown explained to Vox’s Ezra Klein in an awesome interview a few weeks back.
Impossible Foods has already created an impossible burger. Once its priceless invention reaches the right price, this food hack will be complete.
To learn more about how our team at GFI supports innovations in plant-based technology, visit our website.