Impossible Foods launches direct-to-consumer site as plant-based sales soar

Dive Brief:

  • Impossible Foods is launching a new direct-to-consumer e-commerce website where consumers can buy its plant-based burger and get it delivered straight to their homes in two days with free shipping. Only consumers in the lower 48 states can order online.
  • The Impossible Burger will be available in four package sizes: the $49.99 Convenience Pack with four 12-oz. packages; the $59.99 Combo Pack that includes two 12-oz. packages and 10 quarter-pound patties; the $64.99 five pound bulk Family Pack; and the $69.99 Grilling Pack with 20 quarter-pound patties.
  • In addition to expanding its reach online, the company is increasing its presence in grocery and expects to grow its retail footprint by more than 50-fold this year. 

Dive Insight:

For consumers who love the Impossible Burger, it is now even more possible to enjoy the plant-based product from the comfort of home.

The Impossible Burger, which started out in the foodservice sector, has exploded into the retail space since it started in a handful of supermarkets last September. In less than a year, the company has expanded into about 3,000 grocery stores nationwide, and plans to continue that growth.

In addition to its retail expansion, the Impossible Burger is the first of the plant-based burger titans to enter the world of direct-to-consumer with the launch of its site.

The website caters to those interested in buying Impossible in bulk, so newer consumers may not be interested. Even if this launch just targets the brand’s biggest fans, the online offering could make the company stand out among its plant-based competitors, since the other large player, Beyond Meat, doesn’t have a DTC website.

This transition to online retail fits in with the company’s expansion strategy. In March, Impossible Burger closed a $500 million funding round, bringing the plant-based meat giant’s total funding to nearly $1.3 billion. According to the company, a portion of these funds will be used to expand its reach and penetrate the market more deeply — a promise that they seem to be following through on so far.

Another portion of this funding was dedicated to the company’s stated goal of working toward price parity with ground beef. Earlier this year, Impossible Foods cut prices to foodservice distributors by about 15%. Despite that decline in the overall price, the patty packages sold online still work out to $5.83 per patty, a significantly larger price tag than animal protein alternatives. 

At the same time, the gap in price may lessen in the coming weeks. As meat processing plants become coronavirus hotspots and are forced to shut down, consumers are paying more for poultry, pork and beef at the grocery store. According to IRI’s Inflation Tracker, prices of meat were up 14% the week of May 3 compared to a year before. Should this trend continue, there may be even less of a price difference between animal-based and plant-based options.

Despite currently having a higher price, the market for plant-based meat has continued to grow, especially during the pandemic. Compared with last year, plant-based sales were up 90% in mid-March as consumers stocked pantries and freezers. In the four weeks after that, plant-based food sales grew at a rate of 27% more than 2019 and 35% faster than the food category in general, according to SPINS statistics for the 16 weeks ended April 19.

The onset of the coronavirus pandemic has not only increased the popularity of plant-based options, but it has driven a rise in online retail. Companies including Mondelez have reported unprecedented demand on their online channels for snacks during coronavirus, pushing more companies to deploy DTC shopping. 

Impossible Burger is looking to capitalize on this trend as it continues to accelerate its expansion into retail in the face of foodservice closures. Direct-to-consumer e-commerce options help companies boost their product penetration while having greater control over the supply chain and not being as beholden to grocers to display their items. Manufacturers can also sell the products at retail price, rather than at wholesale, and reap the benefits of higher margins. 

However, there are challenges associated with this distribution method. Not only can products be heavy and unwieldy to ship individually rather than on bulk pallets, but companies that are transitioning into e-commerce need to implement new business practices as they interact more directly with customers, from how to handle product returns to issues with last-mile delivery services. E-commerce is also particularly suited for products with strong brand loyalty. Impossible Foods is crusading to convert as many consumers as it can to its plant-based offerings, but definitely has its loyalists.

Despite the challenges that can be associated with an e-commerce strategy, as the war to dominate the plant-based meat segment continues, it would not be surprising if other companies in the space took a similar approach to Impossible and launched their own direct-to-consumer purchasing options in the future.

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