Plant-based burgers could take a big bite from beef, expert warns

James Nason, 19/05/2017
400M 2017 Andrew Kelly impossible foods

Andrew Kelly warns that plant based burgers, like the Impossible Burger pictured, could quickly capture a big percentage of the global burger market.


Plant-based beef burgers could have a much bigger impact on global beef consumption than many people might think, the 400M Ag Tech Investment conference in Toowoomba was told yesterday.

The world is shifting fast towards plant-based proteins, much faster than a lot of people may be aware, leading ag tech investor Andrew Kelly, BioPacific Partners, warned.

Pictured above is the “Impossible burger”, an entirely-plant based hamburger produced by Impossible Foods.

Since 2011 the company has raised $182m with investment support from big hitters including Google Ventures and Bill Gates.

The Impossible burger is made from ingredients including wheat and potato protein and coconut oil and includes the blood iron carrying chemical Haem to make its meat-free burgers “bleed”.

Impossible Foods’ chief operating officer David Lee has said the company has scientifically discovered “what makes people crave meat, right down to the substance”.

The burger now sells in restaurants in the US and started selling in nine upmarket Umami burger chain outlets in California this week, debuting on menus at a price of $16.

It also appears to be receiving positive feedback, with reviewers writing that they found it hard to differentiate from a normal burger.

But can this vegetarian burger win over the meat loving masses?

While many in the beef industry may dismiss this as a threat, Mr Kelly believes this technology will be very disruptive – and not in 20 years time, but within the next five.

“My thesis here is that the minute somebody does get a burger that bleeds and will taste just as good and look just as good and have the same mouth feel, and of course remember a lot of the taste of the burger comes from the outside, where it has been seared and cooked, if they can get those largely right, I suspect a huge portion particularly of millennials will just switch,” he said.

“They will say, ‘hey, I have always liked my burgers, I don’t like the idea of going vegetarian or vegan, but I can now do that and it is good for the planet and I feel good about it’.

“And so that will be a very disruptive technology if that happens.”

Mr Kelly told Beef Central he doesn’t see the technology causing the demise of the beef industry, but believes it could potentially steal as much as 20 percent of global beef market share.

He said the industry had to be ready to cope with this challenge.

Competing in the high volume burger industry is one thing, but can similar technology be produced to replicate, and perhaps ultimately replace, a steak?

Mr Kelly said he was dubious.

While the emerging field of cellular agriculture is allowing scientists to grow muscle cells, he felt that no matter how hard they work at it, a steak as a single slice of meat would always retain dominance of that market.

While it seemed unlikely that anyone would walk into a fine restaurant and order a steak but eat something that wasn’t a steak, a burger was another story.



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  1. donald brown, 22/05/2017

    I think we cattle people will need to make some noise about the big picture that Eion; Michael and Paul Zlotkowski have touched on. I wonder if the people backing this move or eating the impossible burgers have thought the concept right through. It will not be a message that can be easily conveyed. Maybe we should be looking for funding to produce well researched feature films aimed at educating people about the realities of raising cattle and sheep today and the possible disaster for the planet if the all the people left the land that was not suited to cropping.

  2. PAUL ZLOTKOWSKI, 21/05/2017

    Obesity is a global problem and particularly in the developed world largely
    brought about from high consumption of carbohydrates and sugars which are found in plant foods. The beef industry needs to drive a campaign through the dietitian and medical people to warn about the danger of consuming this fake non-protein

  3. Richard Thompson, 20/05/2017

    ~37% of land is currently used for agricultural purposes. The world has about 7.3 billion people. We need to continue to feed people as we grow to the projected total population of ~10-12 billion people. The Impossible Burger uses 1/9th the water and 1/12th the land compared to a beef burger. Plant-based proteins aren’t about a “warm fuzzy feeling” for consumers, it’s about efficiency.

    If you read the Impossible Burger FAQ you will see that the burger delivers protein and iron comparable to conventional beef. It has no cholesterol, hormones, or antibiotics.

  4. Michael J. VAIL, 20/05/2017

    I agree with the above comments of Eion John Allister.

    The industry needs to sell the green benefits of livestock; and that eating grass-fed beef and sheep meat is good for the planet: via the restoration of grass-land savannah.

    Also, that red meat is full of protein and iron, and therefore beneficial for women especially: everything in moderation.

    Without red-meat we, as human-kind would arguably still have a Simian brain only; and development and technology may not have come as far as it has.

    Sure there will always be substitutes for beef and sheep meat, as there is a variety of tastes which must be catered for; however, is this a case of industrialisation taking over food markets … ?? A question to ponder, and wonder about …

  5. Paul D. Butler, 19/05/2017

    Even worse……..eating this type of crap is very bad for your health.

  6. Eion John Allister, 19/05/2017

    Good for the planet? Most of the planet is covered by deserts, savannah, tundra, taiga forest, ocean and mountainous areas. Agricultural land is at a premium in all continents. Intensive horticulture is virtually hydroponic and enclosed system environments in most western nations. I wonder what the inhabitants and owners of the grazing lands of the world will do when grazing animals is no longer seen to be a socially responsible utilisation of land and resources. I wonder what will happen when millions of livestock will need to be destroyed because they are replaced by manufactured ersatz materials.. No use of the grazing areas for economic purpose via a sustainable grazing industry will see no incentive for people to live there or provide stewardship for the land. There will be increased pressure upon already stressed agricultural land to produce the vegetable material to make the ersatz “meat” . Or perhaps we will see the raw materials brewed in algae tanks or yeast incubators. I suppose it could be described as “natural” and the gullible consumer will have a warm fuzzy feeling that they are saving the planet but conveniently ignore the realities of the impacts upon landscapes that are sustainably utilised to produce proteins from vegetation that is inedible by people.

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