- Courtesy of Impossible Foods
- A video posted by Impossible Foods on Sunday features CEO Pat Brown as a spelling bee moderator asking a contestant to spell “poop.”
- The video is a parody of a Super Bowl ad targeting plant-based “meat” by the Center for Consumer Freedom, in which contestants are unable to spell “methylcellulose,” an ingredient in many plant-based “meat” products.
- Methylcellulose, a common dietary fiber and thickening agent derived from plants, is considered by the World Health Organization to be harmless to health.
- Impossible Foods’ chief communications officer, Rachel Konrad, spoke with Business Insider about the two ads and why the company felt compelled to respond with its first-ever parody video.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
“Poop,” Impossible Foods CEO Pat Brown repeats. “The stinky brown stuff that comes out of your butt.”
In a video posted by Impossible Foods to YouTube on Sunday, Brown plays a spelling bee moderator who describes the word “poop” to a confused and disgusted adolescent contestant.
“There’s lots of poop in the places where pigs and chickens are chopped to pieces to make meat,” Brown continues. “And there’s poop in the ground beef we make from cows.”
The surreal, snarky video seems to be taking a bite out of beef, but it’s actually a shot-for-shot parody of an attack ad targeting plant-based “meat” that ran during Sunday’s Super Bowl.
“The ad was so preposterous and asinine that we felt we had no choice but to have fun with it,” Impossible Foods’ chief communications officer, Rachel Konrad, told Business Insider.
The Super Bowl commercial, which was funded by the Center for Consumer Freedom, or CCF, features a spelling bee in which a young contestant struggles to spell “methylcellulose.”
“It’s a chemical laxative that’s also used in synthetic meat,” the moderator says in the ad. A woman in the audience raises both eyebrows in disgust. The girl on stage furrows hers. “M …. y?” she attempts. A buzzer sounds, and the moderator says, “Sorry, incorrect.” The girl mopes off stage, and the screen is flooded with ingredient names.
“If you can’t spell it or pronounce it, then maybe you shouldn’t be eating it,” the video concludes.
‘An ongoing attack campaign’
This isn’t the first time that CCF has released an advertisement critical of plant-based “meat.”
“They have had an ongoing attack campaign on plant-based ‘meat’ for at least a year and a half,” Konrad said.
CCF is a nonprofit founded by Richard Berman, who also owns and runs Berman & Co, a public relations group representing food, alcohol, tobacco, and other corporate interests. In the last two years, Berman and his associates have published ads and op-eds against plant-based “meat” in major newspapers like the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and USA Today.
Other targets of Berman and CCF attack ad campaigns have included the Humane Society, PETA, environmental groups, MADD, and labor unions. The ties between Berman, CCF, and the corporate entities they represent are not always openly disclosed in these ads and op-eds.
CCF managing director Will Coggin told Business Insider in an email: “Despite the perceived health halo, synthetic meats are the opposite of ‘clean’ eating. Our ad highlights a few of the many industrial ingredients found in synthetic meat products.”
Methylcellulose, the subject of CCF’s commercial, is used as a thickening agent in many consumer products, baked goods, and processed foods. It is derived from cellulose, a naturally occurring fiber in most plants, and the World Health Organization considers its addition in food harmless to health.
Having a little fun with it
Usually, Impossible Foods responds to attack ads with blog posts that contain information to counter the content of the ads. But after seeing CCF’s Super Bowl ad last week, the company felt it warranted a different kind of response.
On Saturday morning, Konrad and a creative team wrote, shot, and edited the poop spelling bee video in Impossible Foods’ headquarters. Konrad did the voiceover while employees and family members acted in the video.
“It was super DIY,” Konrad said. “But we really just wanted to have a little fun with it because that original ad by big beef was just so lame and so easy to make fun of that we could not resist.”
Business Insider asked CCF for comment on Impossible Foods’ parody version of its Super Bowl ad.
“Imitation is the highest form of flattery. We must be doing something right if our ad prompted Impossible Foods to desperately rush to make a video response. It seems as though they are just flinging poop at the wall to see what distracts consumers from the ultra-processed nature of their products,” Coggin said.
Despite Impossible Foods’ scathing response to CCF’s ad, Konrad says that the company isn’t worried by efforts to discredit its product.
“The incumbent industry is very scared,” Konrad said. “And historically when there’s an incumbent industry on the wrong side of history, whether that’s tobacco or coal or whatever, you go to a group like the Center for Consumer Freedom and you ask them to spread fear and doubt about your existential threat.”