Plant-based "meat" company Impossible Foods is pushing further into New Zealand following its launch into the market through restaurants at the end of last year.
The California-based firm which uses soy leghemoglobin, a plant protein that carries iron-rich heme, to make its burgers "bleed", cook and taste like meat, launched in eateries in Auckland, Mt Maunganui and Christchurch in November.
From today, the Impossible Beef Made From Plants patties will go on sale through 200 Countdown supermarkets nationwide and in Woolworths stores in Australia.
The company is not targeting vegans, and instead hopes to convert meat lovers with its plant-based product that uses a genetically engineered imitation blood ingredient that makes its beef taste like the real deal.
Impossible Foods senior vice-president Nick Halla said the company had "good success" with its food service launch and was looking to significantly grow its sales volumes on both sides of the Tasman, with the target of one million units each week.
"With most of our markets we've traditionally been a very food service-led business, but the products themselves outperform competition and compete head-on-head with meat and we've seen our sales in retail be very strong.
"For sales for New Zealand, we expect this to be just the start, it's the first product coming into market. We have a lot more product in the works that will be coming in not too far in the future and we will continue to expand into other retailers around the country too. We expect [retail grocery] to be a really big channel for us in New Zealand."
Impossible Foods has global ambitions to create imitation alternatives to meat, fish and dairy products derived from plants. It already sells a pork product in the US.
Its patties sent to New Zealand are manufactured and imported from the US. As it scales its business Down Under, Impossible intends to open a local production facility.
"New Zealand is such a great food and meat-producing market that we do see this as one of the key manufacturing hubs over time," Halla told the Herald.
"We see New Zealand as a huge opportunity. The vast majority of our consumers are meat eaters, we found that because our product behaves like meat from an animal and delivers that sensory experience and nutrition people are looking for [they are keen to convert], and that's what we expect here too."
Australia and New Zealand are two of the top 10 highest meat-consuming countries in the world, alongside the US and Argentina. A 2018 report from the OECD estimated Kiwis ate 74.8 kilograms of meat per person per year.
Impossible plans to grow its stockist nationwide before launching new products outside of its patties. In other markets it sells mince, meatballs, sausages, ground pork and most recently chicken nuggets, which it says have proven particularly popular.
Its expansion strategy is to launch local products more relevant to specific markets.
Burger chain Burger Burger and Middle Eastern eatery Fatima's began using Impossible Foods beef patties in November. The Impossible Burger was also previously available to business travellers on Air New Zealand flights between Los Angeles and Auckland prior to the Covid-19 pandemic grounding international flights.
Halla said some major fast-food chains would soon begin using Impossible products in New Zealand. Burger King and Starbucks are both using Impossible Burger patties globally.
Food Standards Australia New Zealand approved the use of Impossible Foods' genetically engineered imitation blood ingredients in December 2020.
Impossible Foods was founded almost 11 years ago by paediatrician-turned-Stanford University professor Patrick Brown. The company's global retail sales were up 85 per cent year-on-year in 2021 and its products are available in 20,000 grocery stores and 40,000 restaurants worldwide.
Impossible Foods raised nearly US$500 million in a funding round led by existing shareholder Mirae Asset Global Investments in November last year. The company has raised more than US$2 billion since it was founded in 2011 and is backed by Microsoft co-founder and the world's second-richest man Bill Gates.