- Hollis Johnson
- White Castle has just introduced the Impossible Slider – a veggie burger that looks and tastes like real beef.
- The burger patty is made by Silicon Valley startup Impossible Foods, which is on a mission to create a plant-based burger that even meat-lovers enjoy.
- White Castle’s Impossible Slider sizzles on the grill, smells like real beef, and bleeds juices when eaters sink their teeth into it.
A Silicon Valley startup has stormed White Castle.
On Thursday, White Castle will start selling the Impossible Slider – a burger made from plants that “bleeds” and tastes like real beef – in 140 locations across New York, New Jersey, and Illinois.
The veggie burger, which does look and smell like meat, is a product of startup Impossible Foods. Founded in 2011, the venture-backed company wants to reduce the world’s dependence on animal agriculture by making a plant-based burger that even meat-lovers want to eat.
The 97-year-old burger chain is the first fast food chain to offer the Impossible Burger. That expansion shows how quickly Impossible Foods is scaling up and the way in which it is capturing more customers outside its progressive base in the San Francisco Bay Area.
While a mushroom or black-bean patty probably won’t fool anyone into thinking it’s real meat, the Impossible Slider might. It sizzles on the grill and bleeds juices when you sink your teeth into it. The secret ingredient is heme, a molecule found in most living things that gives blood its color, turns meat pink, and lends a beef burger its slightly metallic flavor and savory aroma.
White Castle is serving the slider on a brioche bun and topping it with smoked cheddar cheese, pickles, and onions. A single slider sells for $1.99, and it can be ordered as part of a meal.
“Part of its brand is they’re willing to innovate,” David Lee, COO of Impossible Foods, said of White Castle.
In 2017, White Castle began serving a seasonal seafood crab cake slider in order to appeal to pescatarians and entice meat-eaters to try a meatless alternative.
- Melia Robinson/Business Insider
The Impossible Slider’s debut suggests White Castle is trying to get ahead of a rapidly evolving industry.
Fake meat is a fast-rising food category that could change the way people eat. The world’s population is expected to top 9 billion by 2050 – a figure that has some experts worried there won’t be enough resources on the planet to support animal agriculture at that scale.
Global sales of plant-based meat grew 6% between late 2016 and late 2017, according to a Nielsen report. Both Whole Foods and Pinterest said in their 2018 food trends reports that plant-based dishes will continue to go mainstream this year.
Silicon Valley startups have sprung up to try to develop meatless foods that people will actually want to eat – such as “chicken” made of soy and pea protein, “eggs” from mung beans, and “tuna” from tomatoes.
Impossible Foods opened its first large-scale production facility in September, which will eventually allow it to produce 4 million burgers per month. Beyond White Castle, the company’s products are available in about 1,300 restaurants nationwide, including “better burger” concepts Fatburger and Umami Burger.
Fast-food giants are likely paying close attention to companies like Impossible Foods, as America’s appetite for plant-based meat increases. When asked if consumers could expect to find the Impossible Burger at the In-N-Out burger chain anytime soon, Lee joked that he was optimistic.
“Soon enough, I hope,” he said.