Impossible Foods hopes to sell in China in the next year or two

Melody Hahm
West Coast Correspondent

The Impossible Burger first rolled out in gourmet restaurants, then fast food joints and now supermarkets — starting with Gelson’s in California. The company has its sights set on entering China, which could be its most lucrative international market.

Chefs in Hong Kong, Macau, and Singapore are already using the plant-based patties, and CEO Pat Brown says he’s laser-focused on further expansion in Asia.

“The launches have been incredibly successful. Our sales in the past several months have grown fourfold in all those [Asian] markets. There are restaurants in Singapore, for example, where we outsell beef from a cow by four to one. We chose those cities, in part, because they’re culinary crossroads, so we wanted to see how it would perform and how it would be received, served in traditional Asian cuisine,” he told Yahoo Finance.

Close-up of Impossible Whopper, a meat-free item using engineered, plant-protein based burger patty from food technology company Impossible, during a limited market test at a Burger King restaurant in the San Francisco Bay Area, Danville, California, June 26, 2019. (Photo by Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images)

Given the correlation between a country’s growth and meat consumption, China is a prime target for alternatives to beef.

“As far as entering into China, it’s a super high priority because 25% of global meat consumption is in China. And the growth in China is vastly greater than overall global growth. And when you when you see fires coming out of the Amazon, it probably means someone in China is eating a burger,” he said.

Credit: David Foster/Yahoo Finance

Brown believes that if the success across Asia thus far is any indication, Chinese demand for the Impossible Burger will be insatiable.

We expect there to be tremendous, positive reception for our product in China. We've already seen it in the few cases we've tested. We're doing an event in Shanghai in November, where we have permission to serve our product in China, even though we haven't gone through all the regulatory hoops yet. And I think that's going to be a real great test. But so far, it's it's been great,” he said.

“We hope to be selling in China within a year or two. We're looking for partners, we're talking to people — government leaders and party leaders. I think that there's a huge advantage for China, because they're totally import-dependent for their meat supply, and that’s not a good place to be. So I think we have we have something that will be a huge win-win for Chinese consumers,” he added.

In addition to U.S. competitors like Beyond Meat racing to get the Chinese eater, plenty of homegrown plant-based players are already up and running, including Shenzhen-based Whole Perfect Food.

Brown also said he’s talking with partners in Korea and Southeast Asia, though he wouldn’t provide a concrete timeline.

Melody Hahm is a senior correspondent at Yahoo Finance, covering entrepreneurship, technology and culture. Follow her on Twitter @melodyhahm. She also hosts Breakouts, an interview series featuring up-close and intimate conversations with today’s most innovative business leaders.

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