In the book ‘The Restaurant at the End of the Universe’, the main protagonist, Arthur Dent, and his fellow travellers arrive at said restaurant, which is set far into the future.
They are asked if they want to ‘meet the meat’ – at which point a talking bovine is wheeled out, who explains that he has been bred to be tasty and to ‘want to be consumed’. He then proceeds to point out the juiciest and most tender parts of himself that the diners might wish to eat.
Taken as written above, this may sound awful; well, it was intended to.
The book was a humorous depiction of the future and this was the author’s take on how, in years to come, the world might tackle animal cruelty and the ethics of eating them – breed them to want to be eaten and suddenly the ethics are no longer a problem.
Today, thankfully, we are pioneering a different approach to this issue.
Many different alternative foods are appearing on our shelves – meat and fish substitutes – and some have even been around for a long time (the story of Quorn began back in the 1960s). The concept of a meat-free lifestyle is not new, but it has changed.
Today, the meat-free consumer is a very different type of person to the ‘average’ vegetarian from even just 10-15 years ago.
Today, it is not just about avoiding meat for health reasons, or animal-welfare ones. With the dawn of the internet era and access to modern science, it is as much about community and climate change as it is about the other motivations.
Today, with a much more informed and aware population, it is not enough to produce your product; you need to first understand your market.
And there are several companies that have done just that.
Impossible Foods is one such company that is leading the way.
Founded way back in 2011 in California, by Monte Casino and Patrick Brown, the company’s mission statement explains that it aims to restore biodiversity and reduce the impact of climate change by transforming the global food system.
Are they alone in this? Of course not – but they are doing it rather well.
The company is ahead of the game in producing meat alternatives made from plants, which have a lower carbon footprint than their animal-sourced inspirations.
And they have a special ‘ingredient’: By analysing meat at a molecular level, they explain, they determined what makes meat smell, handle and cook like…well, meat. They now produce plant-based substitutes which recreate all the sensory experiences of meat but without the meat content.
This didn’t happen overnight – after the company creation, they took until 2016 to launch their first product, the Impossible Burger, but from then have gone from strength to strength and now produce a range of items – with more on the way.
Moving away from the product for a moment, it is interesting to understand that a large part of their success, it appears, comes down to their informed marketing approach.
Much of this is about educating and informing the public – not just selling burgers. A visit to their website is not just an opportunity to purchase, but a chance to learn.
They even have a section to engage and educate children, which explains the climate change issues and solutions in an entertaining manner.
They are open – there are videos that explain the company and the product, including a presentation from the co-founder, Patrick Brown, as well as cooking guides from chefs.
You are left with the feeling that these people practise what they preach – and in today’s world that counts for a lot.
Their success has not gone unnoticed either – across 16 rounds of funding, they have managed to raise $1.6b in investments.
Impossible Foods, it appears, are living up to their name and achieving the impossible.