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Impossible Foods cooks up mainstream ad attack for 2021

The Drum 14 Sep 2020 09:00
Look out America. Here comes the Impossible Burger.

A Super Bowl spot could be on the table as Impossible Foods looks to become a mass market product. We catch up with the plant-based meat brand to hear how we can expect it to be both provocative and pervasive in 2021.

Impossible Foods is preparing to move into a “new era”. Having shored up early adopters, the popular plant-based meat brand is looking to dial up mainstream, mass market awareness next year.

Rachel Konrad, the company’s chief communications officer who previously worked at Tesla, says it is at an inflection point in terms of its product life cycle. “We’re definitely going to be shaking things up.”

To date, the brand has done very little traditional advertising, relying instead on earned media, influencers and high-profile partnerships. Burger King’s Impossible Whopper was a “transformational moment”, says Konrad. It’s also available at Starbucks (Impossible Breakfast Sandwich) and at 10,000 grocery stores in all 50 states, including Walmart, Safeway and Trader Joe’s.

Meat eaters in the crosshairs

Impossible has scored high marks in terms of taste and nutrition. As it rolls out its mainstream push, it will lean into another key differentiator: sustainability. “We are torching the planet in order to put more cows on it to satisfy the demand for meat. It’s not sustainable.“

Taste, nutrition and sustainability will be the pillars for the brand’s messaging, which Konrad promises will be provocative rather than some “mushy in the middle messaging”. Impossible plans to tap into the fact that people want to be part of a movement – “to be a part of something bigger than themselves”.

Impossible has a “lean-in agenda”. In other words, it doesn’t slink away from a fight.

And when slaughterhouses came under fire during the pandemic because of health concerns, Impossible invited news crews into its plants. The contrast between its “clean, mechanized, socially distanced operations” and “leaked disgusting footage where men and women, often from other countries, working shoulder-to-shoulder eviscerating, decapitating, de-boning animals” were a stark contrast says Konrad.

If current sales of fresh, plant-based, meat alternatives are any indication, Konrad may be on to something. According to Nielsen, sales were up 83.5% year-over-year for the calendar year 2019 and escalated to +134% during the pandemic period (from March 1 through August 29).

But meat is delicious!

By many accounts, Impossible has been up to the challenge in terms of taste and ability to cook with the product. Gordon Ramsay added it to his restaurant, as have many other top chefs. The investors are believers too. It has raised $1.5bn from venture capitalists, global investment firms, Katy Perry, Will.i.am, Serena Williams and more.

She notes that its product needs to work just as well in lasagna or shepherd’s pie as beef does, or else consumers won’t bite. “In-store is in the trenches. When they actually go ‘I’ll try that‘ and then they go ‘oh, that was actually pretty good’. That’s where you win.”

So, what about a Super Bowl spot to do the heavy lifting? “I’m not ruling out anything,” says Konrad. Sounds like a real threat from the ‘phony burger’.

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KonradImpossible FoodsRachel KonradTrader JoesJBS
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