Right now, in my opinion, the Impossible burger is no match for the real deal. But it’s a much better than past attempts.
Impossible versus beef
Burger King has taken its Impossible Whopper national. As a responsible journalist, I felt required to compare it with a standard Whopper. The burger chain, owned by Restaurant Brands International, introduced the product made by Impossible Foods in April 2019. After a successful trial, it was rolled out nationwide in 2020.
In February 2020, I went to my local BK and ordered both the standard Whopper and the Impossible version, as well as fries and a drink. The Impossible Whopper was advertised heavily both on the menu and on the roadside storefront.
The taste test
The plant-based burger was wrapped in an eye catching green and white wrapper that contrasts strongly with the brown paper used for other items. You could feel the difference immediately upon picking up the sandwiches. The hamburger had the heft and feel you’d expect of a good-sized burger ... The plant-based version felt noticeably lighter and the patty felt like it wanted to escape from the bun every time I picked it up.
In the mouth, the plant-based burger had a similar feel to a real burger patty. But it was noticeably different in that it felt processed. Its chew was gritty compared with meat. It felt oddly artificial. On the other hand, the Whopper retained the advertised savory, flame-broiled flavor.
The real difference came through in the burger patty and its fat and connective tissue. Because the real burger had the fat and the structure, it held together better as a sandwich, felt better in the mouth, took on the smoky flavor and had a superior taste and finish.
I felt challenged to finish the Impossible burger because it was bad, especially when compared to a real burger. If you served it to me, I would eat it and maybe not even know it wasn’t beef but I would still think it was bad. Nevertheless, I found it an improvement over past efforts but still lacking compared with beef.
The simple fact the product is on the menu nationwide – and it’s being sold for the same price as the regular Whopper or the chain’s original chicken sandwich – shows the chain is willing to put its money down on plant-based food. That demonstrates alternative protein products will continue to gain a foothold in the American mainstream.
Plant-based protein certainly owns a cool factor that meat does not because of its novelty. Some observers are seriously bullish about the plant-based sector. I am a bit skeptical and will need to see how the market develops over the next few years.
What I will be watching for is whether plant-based or alternative protein burgers and other products can begin to replace meat consistently. If a day came when regular people started craving and ordering an Impossible Whoppers instead of a beef one, I would say we’ve reached a real tipping point.
Until then, I will keep watching plant-based and alternative proteins closely.