Impossible Foods could be set to launch its second product next week at the CES show in Las Vegas. And it might not be another burger.

In an Instagram post shared earlier today, the vegan meat brand hinted at a new product joining its lineup.“What’s next on the Impossible Foods menu? Stay tuned, we’ve got big news coming your way.” 

Anything Impossible does has my attention. Their current batting average is 1000%. It’s not surprising that Impossible is releasing this at CES (aka the Consumer Electronics Show) in Vegas. I like how they think of themselves as a technology company over a food company. It’s smart — if only for marketing purposes.

Now, onto what they might announce…

The vegan fish market is much less saturated. Salmon, tuna, or trout would be welcome additions. After the swine flu issues that have been devastating pigs in China, a great pork replacement would be welcome. And there are already plenty of vegan chicken substitutes, but none are the equivalent of what the Impossible is for a beef burger.

My bet is on fish.

‘What can Twitter tell us about our neighborhood’s health?’

H. Claire Brown for the New Food Economy:

Those connections yielded a finding the researchers called “intriguing”: Higher-income neighborhoods—defined in this study as the proportion of people making more than $75,000 a year—tended to tweet less positively about food, whether healthy or unhealthy.

Tweets from lower-income neighborhoods—those where a higher proportion of people made less than $75,000 a year—tended to show something different. “A lot of people like to talk about food and have strong opinions about food,” Vydiswaran says. This led to a new hypothesis to explore, that “food may be an isolated source of enjoyment in otherwise difficult lives.”

The researchers also made a curious discovery: Neighborhoods with more young people were less likely to tweet positively about unhealthy foods. This seemingly counterintuitive finding could auger well for future research.

‘Czech Lab Grows Mustard Plants for Mars’

Reuters via the NYTimes:

Czech scientists have opened a lab to experiment growing food for environments with extreme conditions and lack of water, such as Mars.

The “Marsonaut” experiment by scientist Jan Lukacevic, 29, and his team at the Prague University of Life Sciences is based on aeroponics – growing plants in the air, without soil, and limiting water use to a minimum.


The team has already succeeded in growing mustard plants, salad leaves, radishes and herbs like basil and mint.

That’s interesting, but the last sentence of the article is what astounded me:

The main benefit of the growing method is that it uses 95 percent less water than normal plant cultivation and also saves space, which could boost agricultural yields in areas hit by urbanisation and climate change.

95 percent less. How is that possible? Can most produce be reduced like this? I want to know more.

‘Bread, Yogurt, Apple Pie and Impossible™ Burger’

Impossible has been running a new campaign that responds to the beef industry’s focus on Impossible being quote-unquote processed. I found this bit that Impossible wrote on their Medium page that expands a bit more on the idea that the Impossible is only as processed as many products in our lives:

Bread, yogurt, apple pie and Impossible Burger

Some critics imply that people want only simple food with few ingredients. This flies in the face of thousands of years of increasingly complex food preparation rituals and cuisine. And the number of ingredients is completely irrelevant to health and nutritional value.

Consider bread — the seemingly simple staple of Western cuisine: People selectively breed wheat or other plants; they wash, soak and grind wheat seeds; they harvest and crystallize salt; they carefully select yeast and other microbes and add these to a complex mix; they knead the mixture to unfold and align the gluten proteins to make an elastic dough; they ferment and finally subject the mixture to high heat in a specifically engineered oven (otherwise known as baking). Mechanical processing, diverse and carefully isolated ingredients, and natural chemistry are required — and it took our ancestors years of trial and error to get the choice of ingredients and processes right. Yet the result of all this sophisticated research and experimentation is a “simple” processed food — a loaf of bread, desired and consumed by billions of people every day.

I’ve yet to see any scientists or dieticians weigh in on these ideas, but I’m interested in seeing how it develops. Processed is a nebulous term. Unless you’re eating raw ingredients, they’re processed in some capacity. Even blending produce to make a smoothie is a form of processing.

I think calling Impossible processed is a bit of a misnomer. For me, processed foods are ones that can sit outside of a fridge or freezer for years and taste about the same—even though they should spoil.

This is Impossible’s ingredients list, and the italicized bits in parenthesis are my notes:

Water, Soy Protein Concentrate, Coconut Oil, Sunflower Oil, Natural Flavors, 2% or less of: Potato Protein, Methylcellulose (cellulose is fiber from plants), Yeast Extract, Cultured Dextrose (sugar from corn), Food Starch Modified, Soy Leghemoglobin (plant-derived heme which is similar to heme from animals), Salt, Soy Protein Isolate, Mixed Tocopherols (Vitamin E), Zinc Gluconate, Thiamine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B1), Sodium Ascorbate (Vitamin C), Niacin, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Vitamin B12.

It doesn’t seem like there’s much to be afraid of here.

‘A Billion Vegans by 2030?’

An interesting little video from Bloomberg about a new app called ABillionVeg that helps people find vegan options. Obviously, the current king is Happy Cow, but the competition will improve both.

I love that they give a dollar for every review and photo that someone posts, but it’s a shame that stops after 10 reviews. It’s a good hook though.

‘A startup just announced the world’s first fake-meat “steaks” made from fungi. Are we ready?’

Joe Fassler for the New Food Economy:

A Boulder, Colorado-based startup has opened a new frontier in the world of vegan meat replacements. The company, Emergy Foods, announced on Tuesday morning the imminent launch of a brand called Meati Foods—the world’s first line of fungi-based steaks.

The whole piece and photos are interesting, but this bit about language and description follows after he gets to try the product:

That allowed doubt to creep in. The more I thought about it, the more I struggled to classify my experience, scribbling phrases in my notebook, reaching for descriptions that made sense. That strangely unsettled feeling helps explain why Emergy used the term “plant-based” in its press release, even knowing the label doesn’t quite fit. It wants to provide customers with a comforting reference point, a way to make its product not feel quite so unfamiliar and new. 

In our email interview, Nicole Civita explained further. 

“Unfortunately, such foods are notoriously hard to market—‘fungal foods’ doesn’t sound terribly appetizing! And it’s not accurate to describe the protein rich foods made from mycelium as ‘mushroom-based’ either, because they are made from the precursor to mushrooms, not mushrooms themselves,” she wrote. “So, companies in this space have struggled to describe their products in ways that are both accurate and appealing.  And sustainable food advocates have favored the less accurate and insufficiently encompassing “plant-based” vernacular. While this drives biologists crazy and could run afoul of food labeling regulations, lumping myco-foods in with the plant-based alts is a reasonable shorthand.”

Time will iron these things out, but for now we’re all enveloped by slang, jargon, and an evolving language.

‘These $50 Chicken Nuggets Were Grown in a Lab’

Deena Shanker for Bloomberg:

At a 93,000-square-foot warehouse-office in San Francisco’s Mission District, they’re growing chicken. Not chicken the animal—chicken the protein.

Just Inc., the maker of plant-based mayonnaise and vegan eggs, is using cellular agriculture to take extracted animal cells and turn them into chicken nuggets. Technicians grow the cells (the company’s catalog includes both stem cells and not) in baths of nutrient-rich liquid media, a bespoke “feed” that includes salts, sugars, amino acids, and often, notably, no animal molecules at all. Just is turning huge bioreactors into mini chicken farms, getting cells to multiply naturally, without an animal body to house them.

I feel like paragraphs like these are intended to scare people, and maybe they should scare people. After Michael Pollan said we shouldn’t eat anything that our great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food, stories like these are mental gymnastics for these new meat technologies — even the ones just made of plants. Even if we know they’ll naturally be better for the planet and animals generally.

And now they’re ready for the market:

The chicken nuggets are still being refined, but they’re ready for small-scale commercialization, Just says, and restaurant partners are already lined up. They’ll be the first cultured meat product available to consumers, even if, at $50 a pop to make, they’re limited to diners with deep pockets—and a taste for adventure.

I wonder who will get these first. I’m guessing they’ll follow Impossible’s template: a few restaurants in major cities (SF first because Just Inc. is there, and then LA and NYC), then a celeb chef or two, then expand in those cities and start hitting festivals with a truck.

In June the Good Food Institute (GFI), a nonprofit promoting cellular agriculture and plant-based foods, counted 26 companies focused solely on cellular agriculture, including Memphis Meats, backed by Tyson Foods Inc., and cell-based seafood maker BlueNalu Inc., which plans to introduce yellowtail and mahi-mahi in a Southern California test market in two to three years. These startups are selling the idea of a real, not plant-based, meat that’s better for the environment and public health and has zero animal-welfare concerns.

I love that everyone isn’t working on one singular kind of thing. I imagine a breakthrough from one company could be a sea change that pulls all up—in texture, taste, and form. Similar to what Impossible and Beyond have done for plant-based meats.

Just says it’s been market-ready since 2018, but before anyone can sell it, a government needs to give the cell-based industry the green light. And for that, all eyes are on Asia. […] Growing lots of meat in relatively tiny spaces is an attractive proposition.

I’m very interested in the language that will be used around these. As the price drops and they become more competitive with the traditional meat market, I think we’ll see a bigger corporate backlash than we did when veggie patties called themselves burgers and Big Beef went bonkers. Read this bit:

But the biggest hurdle may not be the science, or the regulators, or the funding. It’s disgust. Nobody can even agree on what to call the protein: clean meat, cell-based, cellular, cultured, cultivated? No stranger to controversy, Tetrick tested “slaughter-free” on this Bloomberg Businessweek reporter. (She voted no.)

My money is on cultivated meat because it sounds agricultural. And I think that would make people feel at ease.

‘The First Thing That Ever Sold Online Was Pizza’

Jay Hoffman writing for the History of the Web:

If you happened to live in Santa Cruz in 1994 you could sit down at your computer, open up your favorite browser, and then go ahead and order a pizza online.

You could do all of this on PizzaNet, owned and operated by Pizza Hut. PizzaNet was an experiment that launched in the early 90’s, a way for Pizza Hut to test the waters and see if this World Wide Web thing had a real shot at a future. It was proposed by a particularly ambitious Pizza Hut owner in Santa Cruz, and developed by a few folks at a development shop known as Santa Cruz Operation (SCO).

This being something of a trial run, the site itself was kept pretty basic. Yet it bursted with possibility. Any web user could go online, visit, fill out a form that included their pizza choice, address, and phone number and just like that, get a pizza delivered straight to their door. The web may not have been exactly designed for this purpose, but that didn’t stop it from being pretty incredible.

The minimalism of old websites is beautiful. I hope they bring this back when Pizza Hut expands their first (!) vegan trial in the USA.

‘The New Makers of Plant-Based Meat? Big Meat Companies’

David Yaffe-Bellany for the NYTimes:

Analysts project that the market for plant-based protein and lab-created meat alternatives could be worth as much as $85 billion by 2030.

What’s interesting about that figure is that UBS thinks $85 billion could be a conservative figure.

“When companies like Tyson and Smithfield launch plant-based meat products, that transforms the plant-based meat sector from niche to mainstream,” said Bruce Friedrich, who runs the Good Food Institute, an organization that advocates plant-based substitutes. “They have massive distribution channels, they have enthusiastic consumer bases, and they know what meat needs to do to satisfy consumers.”

This is the thing that spooks me when companies like this enter the market. I want everyone to have access to the best, and if theirs are only 80% as good as the best then it’s a massive disservice to people’s piqued interest in all new plant-based foods.

“We’re a meat company, first and foremost,” said Mr. Pauley, the Smithfield official. “We’re not going to apologize for that.”

A spokeswoman for Tyson, the largest meat producer in the United States and the creator of a new line of plant-based chicken nuggets, put it more bluntly. “Right now,” said the spokeswoman, Susan Wassel, “it’s really about the business opportunity.”

And this is a hard pill to swallow. Of course, I want everyone involved in vegan foods to have similar interests—but that’s unrealistic. Most business people are only into making money and don’t care how it’s made. So… I hope lots of evil people make bajillion dollars decreasing animal usage, saving the earth, and helping other people. In the end, it’s a net positive. Though, I’d prefer the good people make the bajillion dollars. I can’t control that.

“If the products are not that great, if they’re just basically repurposed veggie burgers, the harm it does to us is not competition,” [Pat Brown, Impossible Foods CEO] said. “It’s reinforcing consumers’ belief that a plant-based product can’t deliver what a meat lover wants.”

I really like Pat Brown’s turn of phrase. He really understands how to say something with a bang.

Beyond Meat is valued at nearly $9 billion, making it about a third the size of Tyson.

This was news to me, and I love it—especially because Tyson used to own a small stake in Beyond. It’s good to see Beyond eating Tyson’s dinner after what Tyson did last year. For those who don’t know, Tyson learned everything they could from Beyond and then sold off their shares to go off and try to make a competing product. Good riddance.

‘The Shadowy Beef Lobbyist Fighting Against Plant-Based ‘Meat’’

Here’s a small excerpt from Eater’s podcast called Eater’s Digest hosted by Martha Daniel. She speaks with Pat Brown, CEO of Impossible Foods, and Rachel Konrad, Impossible’s Chief Communications Officer — and I think they’ve found their nemesis:

Pat Brown: There’s obviously a lot of effort to limit our ability to market our products. That just has to do with regulations around what we can call them and how we can talk about them. There were efforts in a number of producing States to put those restrictions on. I would say by and large they were not very successful. I don’t think that the smart money is betting that it will withstand a constitutional challenge. They’ve hired this guy Richard Berman, the Center for Consumer Freedom, who’s like mister mouthpiece for every big evil industry you can think of.Which I feel like boy, that’s a point of pride for me. You definitely want to be the people he’s going after. Not the people who he’s defending.

Martha Daniel: Richard Berman, again, is the inspiration behind the movie Thank You for Smoking. As I said, he’s defended cigarettes. He’s lobbied against raising the minimum wage and lowering blood alcohol content limits for drivers. His PR group’s website proudly declares him quote the industry’s weapon of mass destruction. Berman has his sight set on Impossible and the person from Impossible who is really locking horns with him is Rachel Konrad, their chief communications officer.

Rachel Konrad: He is probably the sleaziest PR guy in America. He’s of course a raging climate denier. He’s actually now taken the mantle to try to defend big beef and to really quote, “Tell the story of big beef.” His nonprofit has taken out advertisements in Wall Street Journal and elsewhere. He’s done a series of stupid op-eds that tried to question the nutritional benefits of plant based meat. He loves to trash plant based meat as too processed, which is complete bullshit. I think that the biggest possible validation that we are truly about to change the world is the fact that they’ve hired Richard Berman. Like you don’t hire Richard Berman unless you are evil incumbent industry so reviled that your back is against the wall.

I love that it’s a point of pride for Brown that Richard Berman is in the fight against Impossible. I’d feel the same way. I know it’s easy to villainize people but Berman is about as evil and repugnant as a person can get.