Innovation in the burger world is rarely something you can see with your eyes. If there's a clever new blend of materials, you can experience the hard work when you try it for yourself. When someone has found a great new ingredient to blend into a mixture, you don't usually see it on the bun. People are trying new things in the burger world all the time, but rarely can you look at a burger and be surprised just on looks.
Two years ago, Impossible Foods changed that with its first burger. The rollout has been slow and deliberate, targeting specialized retail distributors instead of making it available to the masses all at once through one of the big box retailers. But ask anyone who has experienced an Impossible Burger for themselves and you'll get quite the story in return. In the middle of one of the biggest tech events of the year, the Impossible Burger is being upgraded to version 2.0. We spent a lot of time with several variants of this product during the launch event, and found no shortage of questions answered.
More impressive than impossible
At first glance, the Impossible Burger 2.0 looks like any other product in its category today. We could moan about the lack of a headphone jack, wireless charging still hasn't made an appearance in this model, and it's really only ever going to appear in one color. But in a way, the simplicity is what makes it so brilliant. There's no way to look at an Impossible Burger 2.0 and see anything other than a regular burger, even though under the hood there's a lot more going on. The difference between the specs sheet and the visual for this product is truly staggering.
We're talking about a 240 calorie burger with what Impossible Foods claims is a protein count similar to a beef patty. That experience is powered by Soy and Potato protein, Coconut and Sunflower oils, and a powerful Soy Leghemoglobin (Heme for short). This is clearly not the sheet many off us are familiar with, in fact it's so different it's difficult to read line by line and visualize the experience so many of us are familiar with. But when you see it in front of you, it all comes together and "just works" in a way that surprises and delights.
In fact, if you didn't have that specs sheet handy, and no one told you at all who the manufacturer was, I am positive you would look at this and say it was a standard, run-of-the-mill burger. It feels great in the hand, visually delivers the exact experience you're looking for, and every part of the user experience feels like it was created by industry veterans. This is a Tier One product made by what is basically industry newbies, but punches so far above its weight you wouldn't know it by looking at it.
Lettuce be serious now
Alright, I give in. That whole last section was me being silly on purpose. Here's the thing though, Impossible Burger really is the real deal. This is coming from someone who thoroughly enjoys grinding his own meat blends to make his own burgers at home, Impossible Burger is very much a real burger.
I've tried Beyond Burger, and thought it tasted like cat food. I like a good black bean burger every now and again, but you know it's not a burger when you're eating it. I've had the other "it's like a real burger" alternatives, and found them all lacking if also good in their own way. Impossible Burger is in a class of its own, especially with this new 2.0 blend. You genuinely can't tell the difference between this burger and a $10 burger you'd find in most restaurants. If you increase that to the truly high end burgers the differences become more clear, but your average mid-tier burger is the exact experience you get with an Impossible Burger.
Amazingly, this goes way beyond taste. I watched as these burgers were grilled over an open flame, and watched it bubble and drip and char just like a real burger. A medium rare Impossible burger doesn't just look like and taste like a real burger, it bleeds like a real burger. When you dive into a particular sloppy burger, it even leaves you with greasy fingers like a real burger. Some of this isn't all that different from the previous generation, though. What sets this new version apart is the way this Impossible Meat behaves as a ground beef replacement as well. Included in this demo tonight I tasted Impossible Meat mixed into tacos and empanadas and taste exactly like the real deal.
In the end, that's what makes this such a big deal. Eating Impossible Meat, in burger form or otherwise, isn't any kind of compromise. The folks at Impossible Foods are very excited about the ecological benefits of replacing beef. Cows are environmentally expensive, and being able to offer a genuinely enjoyable alternative is truly world changing. There's a reasonable conversation to be had about how much damage just cows are doing to our environment for the sake of providing beef for the world.
But at the same time, I don't want to think about it. I want to pick up a pack of Impossible Meat at the grocery store and not think about it being somehow different. I want the restaurants around me to straight up offer Impossible Burgers without labeling them. Right now it's important to make that distinction, but after experiencing Impossible Meat 2.0 I think I would rather live in a world where this stuff just exists and most of us don't see it as something unique or weird, but instead is just the way some burgers are made.
And really, after eating my way through my fifth mini Impossible Burger of the night, that future really doesn't seem particularly far off.
Great article Russell. What impresses me the most is this is only the second iteration of Impossible's first product. They will surely continue improving their burgers, and make lots of other meat replacements. I have no doubt that real meat will be less tasty and less nutritious than fake meat in the near future. This meat revolution is just starting. I wouldn't want to be a traditional animal-meat business right now.
Wait: iMore is now a “foodie” site?! What am I missing here?
It being at CES I assume is why they posted it here
Fake anything is never better than the real thing. Margarine is NOT better than butter. “Pancake syrup” is NOT better than real maple syrup. “Frozen dairy dessert” is NOT better than ice cream. Real meat is not going to go away because there is yet another fake, plant-based version. A “burger” is meat. This will never be sold as a standard, real “hamburger” in restaurants. It will have to be labeled as not real meat. Existing truth-in-labeling and food purity laws will see to that. Otherwise there will be class-action lawsuits aplenty if someone tries to sell a “hamburger” without noting that it contains no beef. BTW, if you really think this stuff looks anything like real ground beef, I have some ocean-front property in Kansas that you might be interested in. Hint: real ground beef does not turn green when cooked.
FYI that's not the burger turning green, it's the lighting above the booth at CES. You can see the reflection on the third grill picture.
"I want the restaurants around me to straight up offer Impossible Burgers without labeling them." No. They have to label them. People who don't eat beef won't find them then. Further, the same way people demand "OMG ONE GMO IS BAD THEREFORE ALL MUST BE!!!" should have to do the same for this. I like the Impossible Burger, but still.
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