A Traffic-Driving Veggie Burger? ‘Impossible’
The days of veggie loaf, bean patties and cardboard with corn are coming to an end, as a new breed of veggie burgers are expanding across the country and redefining plant-based options.
While there are a handful of new options, the Impossible Burger has become a veggie burger star for its offering that looks and feels like meat—it even bleeds.
Engineered at a lab in California, the blend of wheat protein, potato protein, konjac gum and leghemoglobin (that’s what makes it bleed) has become a big marketing platform for restaurants and chains. Most recently, non-franchised White Castle added an Impossible Burger slider to the menu.
To get a sense of what sales look like beyond the experimentation phase, we chatted with FAT Brands CEO Andy Wiederhorn. Fatburger added Impossible Burgers to a handful of restaurants six months ago. And as of February 20, it’s available at all U.S. locations. Wiederhorn said it’s been very successful so far.
“We thought it would do well but not this well,” said Wiederhorn. “Daily sales are significant.”
He said the Impossible Burger platform accounts for 25 to 100 burgers at each location per day. And it’s not just a no-veto menu item to get the odd vegetarian in a group; it’s been a big traffic-driver for new customers coming to try the high-tech burger.
“Between 3 and 5 percent of new customers are coming for Impossible Burgers,” said Wiederhorn. “Traditionally, you’d put a salad on the menu or a Boca Burger for as much of a no vote from vegetarians who want to go with a group, but now we have people seeking us out for this food.”
While the Impossible Burger does a decent job of recreating the flavor and texture of meat, it’s still all about execution. The burgers are prepared just like other burgers and are topped like traditional Fatburger offerings.
“Part of it is our flavor profile,” said Wiederhorn. “That contributes to how the Impossible Burger tastes in the Fatburger build, you have to have that flavor profile. Can you imagine selling a crappy burger in this environment?”
The Impossible Burger is also featured at the franchised Bare Burger and at select Wahlburgers restaurants.
According to research firm NPD, vegetarians and vegans still account for just 1 percent of consumers, but another 8 percent of consumers identify as flexible vegetarians. And the latter group is growing as more people cut their meat consumption for health, environmental and other reasons. Wiederhorn said the Impossible Burger is a nod to that growing cohort.
“This is a true investment in technology and producing modern food that’s good for everyone,” said Wiederhorn.