You want to eat this burger, don’t you?
I bet you do. I do too! It looks delicious. Meaty and seared and juicy and all the good things you’d want from a tasty burger.
Would you believe this burger is completely meat-less?
Well, it is. What you’re looking at is an entirely plant-based burger being created by Impossible Foods, a food company that’s doing for burgers what Tesla did for cars. The one above was cooked by Momofuku restaurant empire head David Chang, who had nothing but positive things to say about the burger when he tried it in April 2016:
“Today I tasted the future, and it was vegan: this burger was juicy/bloody and had real texture like beef. But more delicious and way better for the planet. I can’t really comprehend its impact quite yet…but I think it might change the whole game.”
Chang’s not alone in his admiration for Impossible Foods. Vox editor-in-chief Ezra Klein interviewed Impossible Foods CEO Patrick Brown on The Ezra Klein Show podcast recently, where he told Brown the following:
“I had the burger yesterday. It was life-changing. It was great! It was amazing to me, because it felt like you guys had managed to create a burger without quite creating meat. That if you tasted meat on its own, it doesn’t quite taste like a burger, but you put it in a burger and it somehow serves all the functions of a burger. It has that iron taste, that meaty umami.”
In the same interview, Klein made the apt comparison of Impossible Foods to Tesla Motors. The argument is simple:
- Both Impossible Foods and Tesla started with a high-priced product aimed at people who could/would pay for quality.
- Both companies emphasised competitiveness against existing products over virtuosity (“this burger is more delicious” instead of “this burger is better for the environment”).
- Both companies intentionally start small because it’s nearly impossible to jump into a mass-scale market and directly compete with entrenched players.
Brown, unsurprisingly, embraces the comparison between his still-unproven company and the wildly successful Tesla Motors. To him, it’s a measure of running a company with the goal of addressing a “big global issue.” Both Tesla and Impossible Foods are going after two of our biggest polluters — cars and food — in ways that don’t force a moral outlook on people. Instead, they offer a better version of existing products while minimising environmental impact.
There’s one especially important point from Brown about that:
“I think, to some degree, the more you emphasise the stuff that’s important to us [Impossible Foods] — the fact that it’s made from plants, it’s got a much lower environmental impact, better for public health and all that stuff — people feel like if that’s what the story is all about. That means you’re asking me [the consumer] to compromise on the things that are more important to me. Deliciousness and stuff like that.”
And who wants to compromise on flavour for… well, for pretty much anything? When you’re buying a fancy burger, you don’t want to hear about environmental impact. You just want to know that the burger is delicious.
It’s this same approach that Tesla’s taken to selling its (far more environmentally friendly) cars. You’re not necessarily buying a Tesla because you care about the environment, right? The company makes gorgeous cars that are bat-out-of-hell fast, with futuristic stuff inside and out. You’re buying a Tesla because Tesla makes fantastic cars.
Impossible Foods wants that, but from its burgers. You’re not necessarily buying one because you’re a vegetarian/vegan, but because it’s delicious.
This quote from Brown (also from Klein’s interview) really drives home the big picture vision of Impossible Foods, and how companies like Tesla (and Impossible Foods) are trying to have major impacts on huge global problems without being heavy-handed and zealous:
“If your goal is to address a big global issue — which was ours and I assume Tesla’s — you don’t do that by having a successful niche product. You have to have something that the mainstream consumer will want to buy for all the reasons that drive them to make a particular choice, and it means you have a much higher standard of quality, affordability and so forth, or you’re just wasting your time. That was I think Tesla’s thesis, and it was ours for sure.”
Impossible Foods’ first burger should arrive in stores this year, and by all accounts it is quite a tasty burger (albeit a bit on the pricey side). Expect less expensive, more widely available burgers to follow in the coming years.
Sound familiar? That’s because that’s exactly the same formula Tesla used to break into the car market. Indeed.