Impossible Foods announced that its fake-meat patties will finally be heading to U.S. grocery store aisles this fall after receiving long-awaited Food and Drug Administration approval for a key color ingredient in its “bleeding” plant-based burgers. The FDA, as reported by Bloomberg, said in a statement that, should no objections be raised, raw “ground beef analogue products” containing soy leghemoglobin (a.k.a. heme) as a color additive can be sold directly to consumers starting September 4.
Heme, an iron-containing compound, is what lends Impossible its aroma, taste, texture, and “bleed.” The FDA previously expressed reservations about Impossible’s lab-grown version of the ingredient, created using genetically engineered yeast. As Whitney Filloon wrote for Eater in 2017, “the FDA has refused to declare the substance as safe, noting that soy leghemoglobin hasn’t previously been consumed by humans and saying that the company has not done sufficient testing to determine whether the ingredient could be an allergen.”
Availability in grocery stores, as Eater’s Monica Burton wrote in June, is the final step to mainstream relevance. Until now, Impossible’s products have only been available in restaurants, first appearing in fine-dining spaces like David Chang’s Nishi in New York, before eventually expanding nationwide to fast-food chains like White Castle. Now, with the path to direct-to-consumer sales cleared, Impossible can follow in the footsteps of other buzzy food companies like Blue Bottle, Soylent, and rival fake-meat producer Beyond Meat, which recently reported a second-quarter revenue of $67.3 million, roughly half of which was made up of retail business sales.
While vegetarian brands like Morningstar Farms and Boca Burger have long been sold in grocery stores, this year in particular has seen the rapid rise of VC-funded plant-based meat companies like Impossible and Beyond that market to “flexitarians,” consumers who are curious about reducing their meat intake without completely cutting it out of their diets. Impossible and Beyond products have already hit the mass market through chains like Red Robin, Qdoba, Del Taco, Little Caesar’s, and, perhaps most impressively, Burger King, but with the majority of meals in the U.S. still eaten at home, the home kitchen is where companies like Impossible and Beyond need to take aim for true mainstream normalization.