One of the biggest problems for plant-based products — people don't know where to find them at the grocery store
- Impossible Foods is trying to standardize where its plant-based meats are stocked at supermarkets.
- Some stores put the products near animal meat, while others stick them in the vegetarian section.
Impossible Foods has a problem: Its products, like plant-based burgers and meatballs, are almost impossible to find at some grocery stores.
Some grocery stores put them next to the butcher's counter with animal meat, which is Impossible's preferred placement, Impossible CEO Peter McGuinness told Time Magazine in an interview published on Sunday. But others put the products next to veggie burgers — or in a cooler of their own.
"In preparation for this interview, my wife and I went out to our local supermarket but had a hard time finding the product," Time Executive Editor John Simons wrote. Simons said he and his wife looked for the products next to their animal-based equivalents as well as in the veggie burger section without success.
"Turns out it had its own refrigeration case at the back of the store," he added.
Impossible's placement in grocery stores is "a challenge," McGuinness said.
Impossible is trying to win over shoppers who eat beef, pork, and other animal meats, he said. Those customers already stop by the meat department of their grocer on a regular basis, but "they're not going to be in the vegan set," McGuinness said.
"We're working on that, and it's getting better," he added. "It's a bit of a treasure hunt to find it, which we're working on aggressively."
Where plant-based meat sits in a grocery store can affect sales. A 2020 study conducted by Kroger and the Plant Based Foods Association found that shoppers bought 23% more plant-based meats when they were stocked in the meat section instead of the vegetarian section.
Sales of plant-based meat grew quickly during the early months of the pandemic. But that growth slowed down in 2022, leading some analysts to question the long-term potential of plant-based foods. An Impossible representative previously pointed Insider to an estimate from the food-industry data provider IRI that Impossible's retail sales had grown by 65% in the past year.
Impossible has laid off employees and lost key executives over the last year as McGuinness has gotten situated at the company. Founder and former CEO Pat Brown is on leave from the company, Insider reported last fall.
Earlier this month, Bloomberg Businessweek published a cover story declaring plant-based meat was "just another fad." In response, Impossible took out a full-page ad in the New York Times that decried media coverage "hating on plant-based meat."
McGuinness, who became Impossible's CEO last year, pushed back on the recent press coverage in the Time interview. He said that just 17% of US consumers know about Impossible's products and that the company has plans to launch new advertising and marketing campaigns this year and in 2024 to change that.
"We're not even in second gear yet," McGuinness said.
Do you work at Impossible or have information to share? Reach out to Alex Bitter at firstname.lastname@example.org or via encrypted messaging app Signal at (808) 854-4501.
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