Move over Chop suey and make way for the ‘Impossible Burger’

There is a history of restaurant menu items changing the way North Americans view and consume food.  Take Chop suey for instance.  Though not as popular today, Chop suey was a game-changer when it was introduced in the early 20th century via the North American Chinese restaurant.  This dish that was comprised of egg, stir-fried meat, and vegetables paved the way for North American experimentation and acceptance of ‘ethnic cuisines’.

Perhaps the most famous restaurant menu item in the history of the world is the hamburger.  Most of us know the story of how the McDonald brothers and Ray Kroc revolutionized how we eat at restaurants with the creation of their assembly line approach to burger production.  Not only did the McDonalds burger initiate the idea of ‘fast food’, the burger itself became so popular it is found on most restaurant menus today.

The evolution of ‘delivery pizza’ has also had a huge impact on what we eat and how we consumer food. Pizza was always a ‘take-away’ item, even in its earliest days in Naples, but the advent of delivery to your home via a driver added the value of convenience to a restaurant meal.  One must only look at the increasing popularity of ‘Skip the Dishes’ or ‘Uber Eats’ to see that the idea of restaurant food delivered to your door is not going to change anytime soon.

So, what is the new food?  What is the 2018 block buster menu item that may see us change the way we view and consume food?  I’m thinking it just might be something called the ‘Impossible Burger’.  Impossible Burger info

Developed by a biochemist from Stanford University, this burger is made from 100% plant-based materials.  Ten years in the making, the burger mimics every aspect of a beef burger; taste, smell, and look.   The burger is even ‘juicy’ thanks to the addition of beet juice in its production.  From all accounts, this burger taste so much like real beef that many people can’t tell the difference.

The introduction of this product is relevant for several reasons. According to a Nielsen survey, 43% of Canadians are planning to eat more plant-based food items. While the increase in vegetarians and veganism is modest, the growth of consumers who identify as ‘flexitarians’ is growing faster.  While the developer of the Impossible Burger promotes the reduced environmental impact of the product, the Nielsen research shows that consumers are more likely to eat less meat for health and weight loss reasons.  The fact that the burger yields one-eighth of the green-houses of its beef counterpart, requires 95% less land, and uses one quarter the water in production will only become more important in coming years.  Nielsen Survey

This burger is clearly different, but why am I betting that it will become one of the game changers like Chop Suey and delivery pizza? The thinking is quite simple, the company that produces the burger (Impossible Foods) has taken the unique approach in promoting and distributing the restaurant though restaurants channels.  Launching the burger in U.S. high-end restaurants is a strategy that has seemed to work with the product creating quite the buzz in the industry.  Having high-end Chefs as advocates in today’s marketplace is of huge benefit and the word is starting to spread to other types of restaurants.  Premium casual chains such as Earls’ Restaurants have started testing the burger in single locations with plans to roll-out company wide when the supply allows.  In March the company announced that the burger is now available in more than 1000 restaurants across the United States and will be coming to Canada soon.

People love burgers and with approximately 50% of all ground beef in North America being consumed at restaurants it seems logical that meat eaters looking for plant-based alternatives on restaurant menus would choose the Impossible Burger over tofu or seitan product. We’ll have to wait and see if the Impossible Burger becomes as iconic as Chop suey but with the changing landscape of our environment and human health the chances of it being a runaway success are pretty much guaranteed.

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