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Impossible Foods burger is the 'burger for all': CFO

Impossible Foods’ plant-based burgers will soon no longer be so impossible to get your hands on.

Starting Aug. 8, all 7,300 Burger King locations across the country will sell the meatless Whopper for $5.59.

In April, Burger King became the first fast-food chain to sell the Impossible burger, but it was only available at select locations. Burger King is owned by Restaurant Brands International (QSR), which also owns Tim Horton’s.

Headed to grocery stores

Impossible Foods also plans to start selling its products in grocery stores beginning this fall, now that the Food and Drug Administration has approved its key color ingredient, soy leghemoglobin. The color additive is what makes the meatless patty “bleed” like a real meat burger, giving it the look and taste of real beef.

Impossible Foods CFO, David Lee, didn’t reveal to Yahoo Finance just which stores will carry its plant-based products, but he did say “there’s no shortage of interest” from “high-quality” grocers.

Impossible has been able to distribute its product by selling it in restaurants including fast-food chains White Castle and Qdoba.

Keeping up with demand

The nationwide rollout at Burger King and its entry onto grocery store shelves in September marks a huge growth spurt for the food startup that struggled with meeting demand just weeks ago.

Fast-food chains, including Red Robin, complained that the company couldn’t supply them with enough product to keep up with soaring demand.

FILE- This Jan. 11, 2019, file photo shows the Impossible Burger in Bellevue, Neb. After months of shortages, Impossible Foods is partnering with a veteran food production company to ramp up supplies of its popular plant-based burgers. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik, File)

Lee admitted that demand for the Impossible burger has been stronger than he anticipated, as a growing number of health-conscious consumers turn to meat alternatives.

The investment firm UBS projects the plant-based protein industry will increase from $4.6 billion in 2018 to $85 billion in 2030. UBS says that estimate could be conservative if innovation and consumer awareness drive even more consumption.

On Monday, the Redwood City, Calif.-based Impossible Foods announced to its distributors that a cap on ordering had been lifted and that the product was now “fully stocked.”

While the shortage appears to be over, Lee couldn’t guarantee there wouldn’t be supply issues down the road.

“One can never say that they can keep up with an unprecedented consumer movement like we’re seeing. We’re working hard to ensure that we create as much cushion for the demand we’ve yet to see, but you can never predict how much it’ll grow.”

In order to ramp up supply, Impossible Foods has doubled the headcount at its plants in the last two months. It also entered into a manufacturing deal with the meat supplier OSI Group to expand its production capabilities.

The burger for everyone

Impossible Foods recently commissioned a survey of 1,000 people throughout the United States about their attitudes toward plant-based meat. It shows striking differences among age groups. Young people were far more likely to eat plant-based meat than older generations. And the trend is quickly accelerating as millennials become parents.

The survey found two in 10 baby boomers in the U.S. consume plant-based meat at least once a month, while more than half of the U.S. Gen Z population consume plant-based meat at least once a month.

“The reality is, our play is for everyone,” says Lee.

“The thing about meat is it’s ubiquitous... and when you think about getting an Impossible Whopper for example at Burger King, it’s a franchise that draws everyone to their stores. That’s the beauty of the Impossible Burger, we’re meant for all.”

Plant-based fish, anyone?

Going beyond beef alternatives and adding plant-based chicken and fish to the menu at Impossible Foods will eventually happen, but Lee wouldn’t offer a timeline.

“Right now our focus is on Burger King and other QSRs [quick service restaurants] who really want us to provide them with the product we have now,” he said on Yahoo Finance’s “The First Trade.”

But Lee did say he’s already tried some “great tasting” plant-based fish and chicken prototypes within the company.

Impossible’s largest rival, Beyond Meat (BYND), didn’t have much success with its mock chicken product. The El Segundo, Calif.-based company discontinued its plant-based chicken strips in April saying, “Unfortunately, our Chicken Strips weren’t delivering the same plant-based meat experience as some of our more popular products.”

No rush to IPO

Beyond Meat’s stock (BYND) has skyrocketed more than 675% since going public in May, making it the most successful IPO of 2019, so far.

Despite the stellar showing, Lee says there are no immediate plans for Impossible Foods to make its own market debut.

“The reason that we’re not in a rush to go public is that now our focus is increasing our supply for a seemingly massive movement with consumers that want our product more and more. As for whether we decide to go public, we’ll leave that to others to decide later.”

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

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