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Friday 03 December 2021

Impossible Foods’ Nick Halla on what’s possible in New Zealand

24th November 2021 By Bridget O'Connell | bridget@foodticker.co.nz | @foodtickernz

California-based Impossible Foods is looking to follow up its launch into New Zealand’s foodservice channel by adding more restaurants to its roster, before introducing new products and channels.

Impossible Foods is on the menu at Burger Burger

The global plant-based meat company’s senior vice president of international, Nick Halla, said it was a years-long process seeking potential partners ahead of its flagship Impossible Beef – known as Impossible Burger in other markets – dropping on menus this month.

This led to the appointment of Auckland-based Integrity Food Distributors as its designated master importer, and its selection of five restaurant banners including the six-strong Burger Burger chain from which to start wooing meat-mad New Zealanders.

Hong Kong-based Halla, who was Impossible Foods’ first employee when it was a fledgling startup back in 2011, said the selection process for food outlets all came down to how the plant-based business wanted to reach its target market: meat eaters and meat lovers.

“To reach that market, it’s important for us to choose partners that highlight the deliciousness and versatility of our products because that’s what makes us so unique as a plant-based meat,” Halla said.

“We’re just as versatile as conventional meat from animals, and that’s emphasised by launching with a variety of partners representing different cuisines. Some outlets we had been talking with for multiple years and others started more recently.

Nick Halla

“One commonality is that they are the market leaders in their part of the market.”

On foodservice, after a “couple of years speaking with a range of potential collaborators” IFD was recommended, and Impossible Foods was also working through sub-distributors including Bidfood, Service Foods and Gilmours, as well as smaller regional operators.

“We are always guided by our customers’ preferences,” Halla said.

The expansion into Australia and New Zealand marked Impossible Foods’ third international market launch in the past 14 months, following Canada and the United Arab Emirates. It became possible after Food Safety Australia New Zealand approved the use of ‘heme’, or soy leghemoglobin, in meat analogue products in February.

The company, which was founded by Stanford biochemistry professor Patrick Brown, currently has products available in about 22,000 grocery stores and 40,000 restaurants worldwide as it continued its mission “to create a truly sustainable global food system that satisfies every culture and cuisine”.

It is this mission that makes foodservice its preferred route-to-market strategy.

“All of our past international launches have had multiple foodservice launch partners,” Halla said.

“Our goal as a company is to offer delicious, plant-based meat that is just as available and accessible to consumers as conventional meat from animals, so it’s important for us to showcase both the deliciousness and versatility of our products when we arrive.

“Working with multiple partners at launch has enabled us to showcase the wide range of delicious meals that can be made from Impossible Beef.”

With Australia and New Zealand among the highest per-capita meat-consuming countries in the world, alongside the US and Argentina, getting endorsement of the country’s top meat-centric chefs was part of Impossible Foods’ well-leafed playbook.

For its Australia launch, it is even usurping rival Beyond Meat on the menus at 130-plus outlet burger chain Grill’d, although Halla declined to comment on that deal.

With a fresh fundraise close of US$500m announced overnight – taking its lifetime funding to more than US$2bn – Impossible Foods said it would use the capital to continue its global expansion into new regions and channels, plus grow its portfolio of products and its technology platform.

“We are definitely focused on expanding our footprint in foodservice for our flagship product, and are actively selling through IFD,” he said.

“With regards to a retail rollout and additional products, that’s certainly part of the long-term plan. Our long-term goal is to offer all of our delicious plant-based meat products in every channel where customers currently purchase meat from animals, and retail is a big part of that.”

In other territories, Impossible Foods sells sausage, chicken nuggets, pork and meatballs. Last year, it added 100 new members to its R&D department and confirmed it was working on prototypes of plant-based milk, steak, fish and eggs.

In announcing the US$500m cap raise, the company said it was now the fastest-growing plant-based meat business in retail, outpacing the next 10 leading plant-based meat companies combined, according to custom IRI research, which analysed US dollar sales for the most recent 13-week period compared with a year ago. 

Investors include Mirae Asset Global Investments, Khosla Ventures, Bill Gates, Google Ventures, Horizons Ventures, UBS, Viking Global Investors, Temasek, Sailing Capital, and Open Philanthropy Project.

 

 


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