Plant-based meat substitutes were on the rise well before the COVID-19 outbreak, and now one major company in that space has placed a big bet on the direct-to-consumer space. Redwood City, California-based Impossible Foods has launched an e-commerce site that allows “people in the lower 48 states to buy the award-winning, plant-based Impossible Burger and cook it at home.”
Impossible Burger is, of course, the company’s flagship product, one that keeps finding new space at food retail stores, most recently via Kroger locations. “Impossible Foods has increased its retail footprint nearly 20-fold since the start of 2020, and its flagship product is now available in over 3,000 grocery stores nationwide, including Albertsons, Fred Meyer, Gelson’s, H-E-B, Kroger, Ralphs, Safeway, Smith’s, Wegmans and more,” the company said in announcing its DTC offering, adding that the product had debuted in grocery stores last September.
The new DTC website “offers family-size quantities of ... Impossible Burger, starting at $49.99 (plus tax),” the company noted. “The orders come with compostable and recyclable packaging, free shipping and two-day home delivery.” More specifically, pricing starts at four 12-ounce packages for $49.99 (about $16.70 per pound). The company also is selling two 12-ounce packages and 10 quarter-pound patties for $59.99 (about $12 per pound); a single, 5-pound bulk package for $64.99 (about $13 per pound); and 20 quarter-pound patties for $69.99 (about $14 per pound).
This new direct-to-consumer offering follows increasing moves by other companies and brands in the food and beverage space to sell more of their products directly to consumers without the retail middleman.
In May, for example, Ocean Spray announced its first-ever DTC effort, one that centers on herbal beverage Atoka. Introduced in late 2019, the beverage is designed for consumers who “are looking for ways to expand their holistic and health-and-wellness habits while at home,” according to the Lakeville-Middleboro, Massachusetts-based company. The ongoing pandemic and resulting stay-at-home mandates and habits moved Ocean Spray to make DTC a bigger part of the overall launch strategy for Atoka, Rizal Hamdallah, global chief innovation officer at the company, previously told Progressive Grocer.
Just before Ocean Spray’s move, PepsiCo launched two DTC websites of its own. At PantryShop.com and Snacks.com, “shoppers can order an assortment of PepsiCo's trusted and loved food and beverage brands,” the company said. Purchase, New York-based PepsiCo described its new direct-to-consumer effort as a response to pandemic buying habits, much as Ocean Spray did.
From Impossible Foods' point of view, DTC is a natural fit for this pandemic world, and the company promises to reflect ongoing trends and shifts in consumer behavior. “With America facing meat shortages for the first time since World War II, we want to make it as easy as possible to get Impossible Burger -- whether you shop in person at your local supermarket, with Instacart or other delivery services, or direct online,” said Impossible Foods’ President Dennis Woodside. “Shelter-in-place and social distancing restrictions due to COVID-19 altered our buying and eating habits -- and many of these changes are permanent. Our intention is to make Impossible Burger available everywhere people shop and eat, including directly from our online store.”
In related news, Impossible Foods recently won a preliminary injunction from a European Court saying that Nestlé S.A. will have to stop using the product name Incredible Burger. According to Impossible Foods, the European court endorsed the validity of the Impossible Burger trademark and noted the visual, phonetic and conceptual similarities between that trademark and Nestlé’s “Incredible Burger” branding, citing considerable evidence that consumers and commentators were actually confused by the similarity in names.