Impossible Foods reformulates to have less fat than beef

Dive Brief:

  • Impossible Foods reformulated its plant-based ground beef product to have less saturated fat and more protein, making its nutritional value closer to — or better than — animal-derived beef, the company said. It also changed the labeling on the product to be Impossible Beef, which the company said better reflects its use. The reformulation and label changes were first reported by Food Navigator.
  • Impossible Foods reduced the amount of coconut oil and removed potato protein, but added an amino acid and increased soy protein content, the company said. The changes don’t significantly affect other information on the Nutrition Facts panel, the company said, and they add no new potential allergens to the product.
  • Studies have found plant-based products generally have a health halo, even though they might not be much more nutritious than the animal-derived items they replace. This is one of many reformulations in the plant-based space designed to improve product nutrition.

Dive Insight:

Nearly four in 10 plant-based meat consumers last year said that the products’ healthiness was one of their top reasons for consuming them, according to a study from the International Food Information Council. However, the reality is that plant-based meat can still be loaded with saturated fat, sodium and allergens. So it makes sense that plant-based companies seek to make their products at least as healthy as the actual meat they could replace.

The latest reformulation gets Impossible Beef closer to this standard. With the new recipe, Impossible Beef has 38% of the recommended daily value of protein, which is the same as 80/20 ground beef. In terms of saturated fat, Impossible Beef’s latest reformulation reduces it by 25% to 6 grams per serving. In turn, a reformulated Impossible Burger actually has less saturated fat than animal-based ground beef, which has 9 grams in a hamburger.

It remains to be seen if these changes bring a large difference in the experience of eating Impossible Beef, although CEO Peter McGuinness told Food Navigator that they come with no compromises to the taste, mouthfeel or cooking experience. Consumer sales and preferences will be the judge, but there has been no noticeable chatter about it on social media.

Impossible Foods isn’t the only plant-based meat company to undergo a reformulation to make its product healthier. Beyond Meat did a large-scale reformulation on its plant-based ground beef product at the beginning of 2021 in order to reduce its fat content and calories. Beyond’s reformulation also had the goal of providing a meatier taste and juicier burger. Currently, Beyond Burgers have 5 grams of saturated fat and 20 grams of protein per patty.

Lightlife, which is owned by Maple Leaf Foods, also did extensive reformulations to improve its products’ ingredients lists in 2020 and 2021. The goal was not necessarily making products healthier, but changing the formulation to be more “clean label” — made only with recognizable ingredients.

While Impossible Foods likely worked hard on its reformulation, the company hasn’t yet made a big announcement about it. So far, the company is letting the label do most of the talking. The front of the Impossible Beef package includes the amount of protein in a serving — 19 grams — as well as a blue circle that says it has 33% less saturated fat than 80/20 ground beef. 

Changing up the packaging a bit sets the stage for consumers to not only compare Impossible Beef’s nutrition with that of other plant-based options, but also with actual beef. The plethora of new companies and products in the plant-based sector can obscure Impossible Foods’ long-set maxim: The company’s only real competitor is the meat industry. The reformulation and the new labeling shows Impossible Foods wants consumers to see it that way too.