Impossible Foods Launches Meatless ‘Chicken’ in US Restaurants

By Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek
Reporter
Tom Ozimek has a broad background in journalism, deposit insurance, marketing and communications, and adult education. The best writing advice he's ever heard is from Roy Peter Clark: 'Hit your target' and 'leave the best for last.'
September 7, 2021 Updated: September 7, 2021

Impossible Foods—which makes meat, dairy, and fish substitutes using plant-based ingredients—has announced the rollout of its newest product, meatless “chicken.”

Called the “Impossible Chicken Nuggets,” the plant-based chicken substitute hit select restaurant menus nationwide on Sept. 7, the company said in a release, in which it claimed seven out of ten consumers preferred the meatless nuggets compared to the real thing in blind taste tests.

Pat Brown, founder and CEO of Impossible Foods, framed the rollout of the meatless meat as more than just a new product launch.

“This launch isn’t really about nuggets. It’s about the historic inflection point we’ve reached. For the first time, consumers unquestionably prefer meat made from plants instead of meat from an iconic animal,” Brown said. “In the battle for the future of food, this is the first time David has categorically bested Goliath, but it won’t be the last.”

Plant-based meat substitutes are no stranger to controversy, however, ranging from concerns about their highly processed nature to legal challenges over the use of labels like “pork” or “beef” with respect to meatless meat.

In Texas, where Impossible Foods said it carried out its meatless chicken nugget taste test, lawmakers earlier this year passed a bill that would prohibit companies that produce imitation meat from using terms like “pork” or  “chicken” on food labels. While the bill cleared the House in a 124–21 vote, it has since stalled in the state Senate. The measure was opposed by plant-based food companies, including Impossible Foods.

At a hearing in March, Chuck Mains from Impossible Foods said that the bill would “impair their First Amendment right to free speech and unduly restrict their ability to accurately describe their product in a way that consumers understand.”

Judith McGeary from the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance said at the same hearing: “We advocate for common-sense policies for local, diversified agricultural and food systems. One of the most basic issues is accurate, clear labeling of foods so that consumers can make informed choices about how and where to spend their money. Without clear, accurate information, the market cannot function.”

About a dozen states have enacted similar laws, including Missouri, Arkansas, Mississippi, South Dakota, Wyoming, Alabama, Kentucky, Montana, North Dakota, and South Carolina.

With the launch of its plant-based “chicken” nuggets, Impossible Foods is looking to narrow the gap with competitor Beyond Meat, which launched chicken tenders in U.S. restaurants in July, over two years after it dropped its original chicken substitute.

“Impossible Chicken Nuggets will appear today on the menus of top chefs across the country,” the company said, singling out eateries like Fuku in New York City, Red Rooster in Miami, Joyland in Nashville, and Crossroads Kitchen in Los Angeles.

“Our Impossible Nuggies pair perfectly with the playfulness of Fuku’s menu and will satisfy the cravings of fried chicken lovers looking for an alternative bite,” Fuku CEO Alex Munoz-Suarez said in a statement.

Major foodservice distributors have already started offering the meatless nuggets to restaurants, while leading retailers like Walmart, Kroger, and Albertsons are set to debut the plant-based product in frozen foods sections later in September. Availability of the nuggets will later expand to over 10,000 grocery stores by the end of the year, Impossible Foods said.

Li Hai contributed to this report.

Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek
Reporter
Tom Ozimek has a broad background in journalism, deposit insurance, marketing and communications, and adult education. The best writing advice he's ever heard is from Roy Peter Clark: 'Hit your target' and 'leave the best for last.'