Impossible Burgers will hit grocery shelves for the first time on Friday.
The soy-based meat substitute will be sold at all 27 Gelson's Markets locations in Southern California, Impossible said Thursday. Later this month, the product will become available in grocery stores on the East Coast.
Impossible is launching its retail product as the meatless meat sector starts to become more crowded. Plant-based protein company Beyond Meat sells burger patties, sausages, crumbles and grounds at Safeway, Kroger, Shop Rite and other grocery stores. Kellogg and Nestle both have plant-based burger patties in the works. Kroger, which is testing out a plant-based section in the meat aisle of some stores, recently announced that it is launching a line of meatless products, including meatless burger patties and deli slices, this fall. Even meat processors like Tyson and Smithfield Foods are jumping on the trend.
It's no surprise that big food companies and retail chains are entering the sector.
Barclays predicts the alternative meat sector could reach about $140 billion in sales over the next decade, capturing about 10% of the global meat industry.
US retail sales of plant-based foods have grown 11% in the past year, according to a July report from trade group Plant Based Foods Association and the Good Food Institute, a nonprofit that supports plant-based businesses. Refrigerated plant-based burger patties, which have spiked 151% since 2018, have helped drive that growth, GFI noted.
For Impossible, it was important to launch in restaurants before hitting grocery stores, CFO David Lee told CNN Business. The Impossible Burger debuted three years ago at Momofuku Nishi, a high-end restaurant in New York City owned by chef David Chang.
"We wanted the benefit of building a consumer movement in the hands of professional chefs before we began to serve home chefs," Lee said.
Today, the Impossible Burger is served at over 17,000 restaurants, including Burger King and White Castle.
Impossible is hoping that the restaurant launches have made customers familiar enough with the product to reach for it in a grocery store. Gelson's will also offer promotions to help draw attention to the product, like free samples and cooking demos, at some stores starting in October.
Now that the company is finally making its product directly available to shoppers, it's moving slowly. Impossible wants to "test and learn before we fully commit to our rollout nationwide," Lee said. "We want to learn how to best create the same degree of interest that we've seen in food service in a retail environment."
Impossible plans to use insights from Gelson's and from market researchers IRI and Nielsen to learn about how customers interact with the product, and figure out the best way to present it to shoppers in stores. It plans to make the Impossible Burger available in retail stores nationwide by the middle of next year.
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