For the first time since Impossible Foods introduced its game-changing meatless burger in 2016, the plant-based food purveyor is launching a new product: The Impossible Sausage.
The vegan, halal, and kosher-friendly sausage is making its exclusive debut today as a topping on Little Caesars’ $12 Impossible Supreme Pizza, alongside mushrooms, green peppers, and caramelized onions.
The Detroit-based chain’s leaning into the meatless craze is a new tactic. It’s better known for meat toppings and such culinary stunts as wrapping pepperoni pizzas in 3.5 feet of bacon. Just last month, its senior vice president of global marketing, Ed Gleich, declared American consumers “want more meat,” when announcing the return of a pie packed with pepperoni, bacon, sausage, beef, and ham.
Now Little Caesars is wrapping itself in Impossible’s mission of attracting vegetarians and carnivores alike.
“Little Caesars had the foresight to recognize that the core of their meat-eating consumers would embrace an Impossible Supreme Pizza,” Impossible CFO David Lee tells Fortune. “I personally engaged with them over the past year or so…We’ve been collaborating, thinking about where they should launch, and supporting them with product as they developed their own custom seasoning.”
Silicon Valley-based Impossible created more than 50 prototypes with Little Caesars before settling on the right one.
“I’m confident that the Impossible Supreme Pizza will go down as one of the most surprising and satisfying menu sensations of 2019,” Little Caesar president and CEO David Scrivano said in a statement sent to Fortune. “This is likely just the beginning of plant-based menu items from Little Caesars.”
Although the pizza is now only available for a limited time at 58 select Little Caesars in Yakima, Wash., Ft. Meyers, Fla.. and Albuquerque, N.M., Impossible Sausage’s market presence will hardly end with the promotion.
“Ground sausage is used in a lot of different cultures and cooking, so this is exciting for us,” Lee said. “It also makes for a great shumai, a great dumpling, and a great bao.”
These are apt examples given that Impossible reported tripling its sales in Asia since March after announcing it had closed a $300 million funding round last week with investors, including Serena Williams and Jay Z. Impossible Foods has now raised a total of $750 million since its launch, which CNBC reports brings it to a $2 billion valuation.
Impossible’s plant-based rival Beyond Meats was valued at $3.8 billion earlier this month after having the best IPO of 2019 thus far, soaring 163% to $65.75 at closing from $25 a share at the opening bell. In 2017, Beyond began offering meatless sausages in grocery store meat aisles and last week announced a partnership with Tim Hortons in which the Canadian fast-food chain will carry three Beyond sausage breakfast sandwiches on its menu.
Lee said the key difference between Impossible’s meatless products and that of its competition is the use of the iron-rich molecule heme, which contributes to the blood-red color, elevates taste, and “creates authentic craveability in the meat eater.” Heme is found in cows and plants—and Impossible Foods has a global patent to use it in meat substitutes.
Although the Impossible Burger and Impossible Sausage have similar ingredients, they are different products.
“Both the Impossible Sausage and the Impossible Burger are unique in that our technology allows us to understand how different plant-based ingredients, when combined and when cooked, can transform,” Lee said. “This sausage leverages heme but at different quantities in combination with different other ingredients. Chefs can season it differently, just like they can with the Impossible Burger, but with that unique sausage smell, cook, and taste.”
While it may taste like sausage, the plant-based product is a healthier option than beef sausage—with 0mg cholesterol in a quarter-pound serving compared to 70; 1.5g saturated fat compared 12; 17g fat compared to 29; 17g protein compared to 14; and 270 calories compared to 340.
“The excitement for us is that we have long known we’ve had the innovation to provide multiple different types of meat, customizable for any chef,” Lee said. “It’s great to be able to demonstrate that there’s another major new product that’s coming to market.”