Impossible Foods is determined to replace animals in the global food system by 2035. On Tuesday, the company added pork alternatives to its line-up, debuting Impossible Pork and Impossible Sausage at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2020 in Las Vegas.
Why the focus on pork?
J. Michael Melton, head of culinary at Impossible Foods, says pork is the most ubiquitous meat product in the world, and it was a natural movement to utilize this as the company’s second product debut. The company is looking at global market opportunities, because pork is so popular around the globe.
“Ultimately, as we scale, the global need for meat is going to be matched against the resources available. And we have to look at what that growth means for the availability of products to meet the need of meat eaters, and those alike, so that we can satisfy those needs,” Melton told Farm Journal news director, John Herath, in an exclusive interview at the 2020 Consumer Electronics Show.
Taste versus appearance
But what will meat eaters think of this imitation pork product? Melton says the company has learned a lot since the release of its flagship Impossible Burger in 2016. For one, the company found that heme, an iron-containing compound, is the flavor driver that made developing a pork substitute easier, he adds.
“Ultimately learning that heme catalyzes that reaction between the vitamins, amino acids and sugars to allow that sensory characteristic that you expect and know when you eat meat products, it helps us to accelerate the development of anything new because all living things contain heme,” Melton explains. “And in animals, that is the driving force of sensory characteristics. So the flavor driver and meat flavor driver in our product, molecule for molecule, is exactly the same.”
But, looks can be deceiving. Herath had the opportunity to taste-test the new alternatives to pork.
“The appearance is spot-on for ground pork, but the flavor, for me, falls very short,” Herath says. “You don’t get the richness of the rendered fat, the savory heart of pork flavor just isn’t there.”
No plans are in place yet to release the pork product to the general public, Melton says. However, the company said it will roll out the product to restaurants first.
Looking out for meat eaters?
Impossible Food’s marketing efforts have raised the ire of some in the livestock industry, Herath pointed out.
“I don't know that we're marketing against them,” Melton says. “Ultimately, we're trying to provide a no-compromises alternative to conventional meat.”
As the demand and need for meat grows, Melton says Impossible Foods wants to provide alternatives for the meat eaters that love meat.
Impossible Foods CEO Pat Brown told the Associated Press on Tuesday that his only concern is ensuring that plant-based products taste good enough to convince meat eaters to switch.
Opportunity for soybean farmers
Impossible Foods is using soy protein in its products because it’s abundant, “delivers that texture and chew” and is the most renewable source for protein, Melton says.
“It helps us in our sustainability metrics, so that's why we moved to the choice of soy. But we’ll look at any and all proteins as we move forward,” he says.
And that includes using GMOs.
“We hold a hard stance on GMOs. We believe in safe science,” Melton says, noting the company has a growing demand for soy. “As we move forward, about 95% of the soy crops in the United States are GMO soy, and our secret ingredient or magic ingredient in heme. We use a genetically modified process in order to use fermentation to produce it at scale so that we can add to our product the same abundance of heme as you find in meat.”
Impossible Foods grew from 200 locations in the U.S. serving its product to 5,000 in 2018, and from 5,000 locations to 17,000 in 2019.
Watch the entire interview below.