It has been a damn big week for plant-based burgers. On Wednesday, California-based Don Lee Farms announced the launch of its Better Than Beef burger that, of course, "bleeds" organic beet juice and will be sold at Costco stores nationwide. A day later, Nestle drowned Don Lee out, hyping the arrival of its Awesome Burger, which is made with yellow pea protein. And McDonalds sent Beyond Meat's stock soaring when it said that it would soon start testing a Beyond Burger-based P.L.T.—plant, lettuce, and tomato, obvs—sandwich in 28 restaurants in southwestern Ontario, Canada.
And that's not counting Kellogg's early-September promise to put its own ridiculously named "Incogmeato" line of products on store shelves by early 2020, or the fact that Hormel, Tyson, and Kroger have also pledged to offer plant-based burgers in the near future.
But not everybody is psyched about the increasingly busy faux-burger space. Pat Brown, the CEO of Impossible Foods, is one of those people, telling Business Insider that giving people more options might not be the best approach, especially if some of those options frankly—in his words—suck.
Brown believes that some of the big companies (and he didn't name any names) are pushing their meatless patties into the marketplace not because they think they've developed the best possible product, but because they're worried that the trend could just pass them by.
"On the one hand I feel like it's great. It's a great sign about the demand," he said. "On the other side, I feel like—and it may sound ironic to say this—I wish they would make better products, basically. Every time someone uses one of those products and it sucks, it's a setback."
Despite the thinly veiled criticism of Impossible Foods' competitors, Brown did clarify that he thinks the company's real challenge is still the meat industry. The meat lobby has ganged up on these plant-based upstarts, too: Trade industry groups have convinced the state of Missouri to try to ban plant-based products from being sold under the word 'meat' at all. (And cattle farmers in Quebec have accused Beyond Meat of "food appropriation" for describing its patties as "plant-based meats.")
It's a little hard for Impossible Foods to sound that indignant though, or for them to pretend that they're still just a plucky, bro-friendly startup. The Impossible Whopper has become part of Burger King's menu, there are Impossible Sliders at White Castle, and the company's patties are also offered at Red Robin, Dave & Busters, Fatburger, Hard Rock Cafe, and select Cheesecake Factories and Applebee's locations, among others. (And boy oh boy, did Arby's go bonkers when the rumor of an Impossible collaboration started to spread).
But that also makes Brown's comments more compelling, when an increasingly mainstream company calls out its competitors and straight-up dares them to make better products. If other manufacturers take the time to develop a worthy challenger to the Impossible Burger, or just other high-quality meat replacements, then there aren't really any losers. Except Incogmeato. That's still a really dumb name.