Impossible Foods’ expansion plans in Asia, a major meat consumer

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Meatless burger-maker Impossible Foods is looking to expand in Asia — a region with a voracious appetite for meat.

“Asia is by far the number one focus for us. It is core to our mission; core to our business,” the company’s senior vice president for international, Nick Halla, told CNBC’s “Street Signs ” on Thursday.

According to a 2019 report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Asia accounts for more than 46% of the world’s meat consumption.

Impossible Foods, which primarily makes plant-based protein products, made their first foray into Asia via Hong Kong about 18 months after launching worldwide.

Hong Kong has one of the highest meat consumption per capita in the world, according to the University of Hong Kong. Hong Kongers consume a daily average of meat equivalent to about two pieces of 10-oz steak — that’s four times higher than in the United Kingdom, according to the university’s research.

This has meant the California-based company had to adopt a different market strategy for its Hong Kong expansion.

“The first thing we have to do, coming into a new market, is build that credibility that this is not the plant-based product of the past,” Halla said.

The Impossible Burger made by Impossible Foods

Source: Impossible Foods

“So here in Hong Kong, we started with two of the most meat-heavy, global-renowned chefs, May Chow and Uwe Opocensky, to help us tell that story. Them putting it on their menu is a great sign of credibility to us, to really hit the mass market too,” Halla said.

In contrast, the company took a different approach in the United States, where Impossible Foods recently made a deal with fast food chain Burger King. On April 1, they launched the Impossible Whopper — burgers made with Impossible Foods’ plant-based patty — in St. Louis, Missouri.

According to one study, the St. Louis outlets outperformed Burger King’s national foot traffic average by 18.5%.

The collaboration between Impossible Foods and Burger King came after they worked with American chefs to put their meatless products on restaurant menus.

“We have to be strategic about how we start and how we grow — so starting with the really premium chefs, top-end hotels, before we go to the Burger Kings in the world,” said Halla.

Impossible Foods’ expansion comes as the alternative meat market is expanding rapidly. Investment bank Barclays predicted the market could be worth $140 billion in 10 years.

In its May funding round, Impossible Foods raised $300 million, adding to the $750 million the start-up raised since it was founded in 2011.

Watch: Fad or future food? Plant-based dishes are the norm in this town in Bali



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