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Impossible Foods CFO on opportunity amid coronavirus pandemic

U.S. meat producers appear to be under siege during the coronavirus pandemic. Several meat packing plants have temporarily closed after large outbreaks among workers, including Tyson Foods (TSN), which suspended operations Wednesday at an Iowa plant that is critical to the nation’s pork supply.  

Those plant closures could create an opportunity for meat-alternative companies, such as Impossible Foods and rival, Beyond Meat (BYND).

“There’s no question our opportunity is defined by the meat-eater,” David Lee, Impossible Foods’ CFO,  told Yahoo Finance’s “The First Trade.” 

Lee says Impossible Foods has not experienced any disruption to its supply chain because of the COVID-19 crisis: “We’ve actually seen through this crisis our restaurants change behavior. Many restaurants can now serve the direct-end customer.”

Lee says restaurants including GroundHouse Killer Burgers in Atlanta and Prairie in San Francisco have pivoted to retail, opening general store websites that allow them to sell the Impossible Burger and other menu items directly to consumers. 

The Redwood, Calif.-based company says its retail partners have seen record sales of Impossible Burgers in recent weeks. Its 12-ounce packages sell for between $8.99 and $9.99.

In this Wednesday, July 31, 2019 photo, an Impossible Whopper burger is photographed at a Burger King restaurant in Alameda, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

The plant-based meat substitute company also launched a program this week with the San Francisco-based food wholesaler Cheetah to offer its Impossible Burger patties to consumers.

"Consumers, independent restaurants and retailers can download the Cheetah app and order Impossible Burger directly for pickup at numerous Bay Area locations, which Cheetah has turned into mobile fulfillment centers," the company said in a statement. 

Impossible Foods closed a $500 million funding round March 6, just before the coronavirus hit in the United States. In addition to investments in technology and R&D, Lee says some of that money is fueling a big push in distribution.

Impossible Foods rolled out its products this month in 777 supermarkets nationwide, including Albertsons, Safeway and Vons. That’s in addition to the 150 supermarkets that already sold Impossible Foods products.

“We’re seeing during this crisis more and more people cooking from home,” says Lee, “so the time of the increase in our retail locations happens to be coincidental, it was planned well before, but it is in time for the meat-eater to be able to serve our product and eat at home.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has also not stopped Impossible Foods’ rival, Beyond Meat, from expanding. This week the company started selling its fake meat products in China through a partnership with Starbucks (SBUX).

Alexis Christoforous is co-anchor of Yahoo Finance’s The First Trade. Follow her on twitter @AlexisTVNews.

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