Mission Impossible? Maker of Plant-Based Burger Struggles to Meet Chains’ Demand

Not since Harold and Kumar went to White Castle has there been such an insatiable hunger for burgers — but not for just any patty.

The popularity of the Impossible Burger, a plant-based creation that has created a sizzle, even among circumspect carnivores, has disrupted the supply chain of two major national chains, White Castle and Red Robin.

The feeding frenzy comes after Burger King debuted the Impossible Whopper at 300 locations across the United States this spring and plans to roll it out at all 7,200 of its domestic restaurants by the end of the year.

Impossible Foods, a Redwood City, Calif., company that makes the patties from genetically engineered, soy-based heme protein, said that it was not playing favorites and that it was ramping up production of the burgers. It uses more than 400 distributors and does not sell its burgers directly to restaurants and retailers, according to the company.

“We are not the ones who are saying, ‘Oh, Burger King gets it or this little mom-and-pop in Indianapolis gets it,” Rachel Konrad, a company spokeswoman, said. “We definitely didn’t predict that demand would spike this quickly.”

Because it is a private company, Impossible Foods does not release production or sales figures. The company has experienced a 50 percent increase in revenue since it introduced the second version of its meatless burger in January, it said, and its signature burger is now on the menu at 9,000 restaurants.

But at a dozen White Castle and Red Robin locations across the United States, the much-discussed burgers were in scarce supply on Friday, when the eateries were contacted by The New York Times.

“I can’t believe how many people are going crazy over it,” said Tricia Scanlon, a bartender at a Red Robin in West Babylon, N.Y. “A lot of people have been asking for it, people that are vegetarians or vegans. Everybody who lives that lifestyle absolutely loves it.

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