Food & Drink

What’s the Difference Between Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat?

The vegan meat companies often go head-to-head, but they are actually quite different.

beyond meat and impossible foods burger
Beyond Meats and Impossible Foods are both known for their plant-based burger patties. | Courtesy of Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat
Beyond Meats and Impossible Foods are both known for their plant-based burger patties. | Courtesy of Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat

There is a meatless war brewing, and everyone has an opinion on who will be crowned the champion. In one corner is Beyond Meat, the certified vegan “meat” brand serving up meat-like adaptations of burger patties and sausages. In the other corner is Impossible Foods; with their impossible burger and impossible pork, they are mighty and have established a devoted following.

Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods are two companies who have gone above and beyond to seemingly do the impossible: make meatless meat actually taste like… meat.  It seems like both vegan meat competitors are everywhere these days and both have versions of their burger patties available at fast food and fast casual establishments, ranging from Burger King to White Castle to Applebees and TGI Fridays.

Though they’re competing for the coveted title of best meatless “meat” burger, there are actually a lot of differences between the two companies. Here’s everything you needed to know about Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat:

How long has each company been around and who founded them?

Beyond Meat has been around longer than Impossible Foods; it was started in 2009 by Ethan Brown, who still remains the CEO. The company’s core mission is to lessen humans’ reliance on livestock and opt for better, more sustainable options -- which is where their products come into play. Beyond has built a devoted celebrity following; Kyrie Irving, Bill Gates, and Jessica Chastain are all supporters.

Impossible Food is a slightly younger company. It was founded in 2011 by Stanford biochemistry professor, Patrick O’Reilly Brown, who is similarly driven by the desire to reduce animal agriculture by providing a delicious, plant-based substitute. After several years of development, the Impossible Burger was released in July 2016.

It is a mere coincidence that both founders and CEOs share the last name Brown.

What products do they have? Do they only make burgers?

One of the biggest distinctions between Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods is the products that each company makes. True, Beyond Meat carries burger patties, including a burger that contains “more marbling” and therefore makes for an allegedly juicier burger. But aside from that, the company also sells hot Italian sausages and brats as well as “beef crumbles” meant to be included in tacos or Bolognese sauce. On the flip side, Impossible has burger patties and packages of ground "beef," as well as Impossible pork.

What are the patties made out of?

Impossible meat patties are made from a blend of soy and potato protein, mixed with sunflower oil, yeast extract, salt, and a whole lot of other scientific-sounding ingredients (full ingredient list can be found here). The most notable thing about Impossible patties is the inclusion of heme, an iron ion found in all living things that gives meat its inherently meaty flavor. The heme used in Impossible Foods is derived from fermented soybeans.

Like Impossible, Beyond Meat’s patty is also made from a blend of plant proteins -- just different plants. Beyond contains a mixture of pea, mung bean, and rice proteins, canola and coconut oil instead of sunflower, potato starch, and beet juice extract to give the “meat” its pink hue. The full list of ingredients in the Beyond patty can be found here.

beyond burger patties
You can buy Beyond Meat burger patties in the grocery store. | rblfmr/Shutterstock

What do they taste like?

Though Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods both sell burger patties, their burgers taste wildly different. I ventured to a Bareburger to try the pair side-by-side, along with a regular beef burger. Each burger came with all the same ingredients -- brioche bun, cheddar cheese, pickles, lettuce, and tomatoes topped with ketchup, mayonnaise, and mustard -- except for the patties.

I found that the Impossible patty tasted a lot more similar to beef than the Beyond patty. The Impossible burger was charred on the outside with a pink center, just like beef, and had a juicier patty that -- if I closed my eyes and pretended -- could definitely be mistaken for real meat.

The Beyond burger was not quite as beefy. The patty as a whole was a little bit spongier and the flavor of different veggie proteins was more apparent. The meat did not bleed or have the same kind of juiciness; instead, the patty seemed to be the same consistency and flavor throughout, despite being cooked on a grill. The flavor was still delicious -- it just didn’t convince me that it’s meant to be a beef substitute and not just another vegan protein patty.

How do the price points compare?

At the Bareburger where I conducted my taste test, both the Beyond and Impossible patty cost an additional $2.95 on top of the regular price of a burger ($10.95). In that regard, they’re the same.

At Burger King, opting for an Impossible patty over a regular beef patty will cost you an extra dollar -- ringing in at $5.49 in total. An impossible taco at Qdoba clocks in at $4.25 per taco, and an Impossible bowl is $9.95.

Beyond Burger patties retail online for $6.19 for two patties through Peapod and the brat and hot Italian sausage clock in at $9.99 for a 14-ounce package through FreshDirect. Impossible Foods sells directly to consumers through its website and you can order four 12-ounce packages of Impossible Burger ground beef for $49.99, making each package about $12.50.

Where can you find them?

Another stark difference between Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods is how they reach consumers. Beyond Meat provides customers with the opportunity to buy their products in grocery stores. The product is carried in Whole Foods and can even be purchased online through Amazon Fresh and other online delivery services.

Impossible Foods also sells its product online, but also sells directly to restaurants both in the fast food and fine dining space, so places like White Castle, Burger King, Applebee’s, and Momofuku Nishi can sell it to you. This makes swapping proteins for these businesses easy; a whopper doesn’t have to change drastically -- it’s just now called an “Impossible” whopper and contains no real beef.

Are these two companies the only major players in the game?

It seems that the rising popularity of plant-based meat is only just beginning. More and more establishments are offering the vegetarian patties as demand increases, and it seems like these two competitors will see more copycat “meat” brands spring up; Tyson Foods, one of America’s largest meatpackers, has recently announced their own line of vegan meat patties after selling their shares of Beyond Meat.

Though both Beyond and Impossible products are derived from plants, Beyond is the only competitor to be certified vegan by the Vegan Awareness Foundation. Impossible ran into some trouble with vegans for their animal testing.

Both businesses are in no ways perfect; lab grown meat is still a relatively new concept, with room for improvement. That being said, Beyond and Impossible are providing consumers with a traditional meat alternative, and if it’s enough to convince some meat eaters to lessen their reliance on animal products, maybe a sustainable future is possible.

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Kat Thompson is a staff food writer at Thrillist who is excited to witness the future of vegetarian meats. Follow her on Twitter @katthompsonn.