Sodexo North America, a food service and facilities company operating at more than 13,000 locations in the U.S. and Canada, announced today the launch of a new product line featuring the plant-based Impossible Burger.
Eight different takes on the Impossible Burger will be available at over 1,500 of the company's 2,100 healthcare, corporate and college retail locations in the U.S. beginning August 19. Offerings include an Impossible Creole Burger, Impossible Tandoori Burger, Impossible Sausage Muffin and Impossible Biscuits and Gravy.
“We’ve been on a plant-forward journey for the past couple of years,” said Rob Morasco, the company’s director of culinary development, in an interview. Though Sodexo claims "food with a conscience" is a core component of their mission, Morasco also attributes consumer demand – especially among the company's young university clientele – as an important factor in bringing the Impossible Burger to cafeterias and cafes serviced by the company. “Looking at upcoming trends, plant is number one,” he said.
According to Impossible Foods, their most recent iteration of the Impossible Burger uses 87% less water and 96% less land to produce compared to a conventional ground beef patty. The Silicon Valley startup makes meat, dairy and fish products from plants with the soy-based Impossible Burger their flagship offering.
In recent days, Impossible Foods passed two hurdles that could significantly impact the company's growth. To meet increased demand for the Impossible Burger, which faced shortages earlier this year, Impossible Foods announced last week a partnership with OSI Group, a food manufacturer, to scale its production capacity.
Additionally, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved last week the use of soy leghemoglobin protein in products appearing on grocery store shelves, effectively kick-starting the plant-based company's plans to sell the Impossible Burger directly to consumers at grocers across the country later this year. The cooked protein, also known as heme, gives the Impossible Burger its signature bleed.
Already available at nearly 10,000 restaurants in the United States – including a roll-out to more than 7,000 Burger Kings this week – and parts of Asia, the Impossible Burger is increasingly making its way to dining venues on college campuses and corporate cafeterias.
As reported earlier this year by Bloomberg, companies producing plant-based alternatives are increasingly eyeing college dining programs with the goal of building brand loyalty among young consumers concerned about the environmental, health and social impacts of their food consumption patterns.
“College students are very passionate about plant-based alternatives,” Morasco said, while noting that one-third of the Sodexo sites that will offer Impossible Burgers are university dining programs.
With Impossible Foods’ continued rise in the plant-based alternatives market, Morasco says that Sodexo also hopes to cash in on the brand’s consumer recognition.
“This is our most visible plant-based offering,” he said about the Impossible Burger. “We’ve done a significant amount of work with other vendors offering plant-based alternatives, but Impossible is such a known brand identity – putting that name on our product gives our clients an instant awareness of what we’re doing.”