Impossible Foods’ meatless burger product is now available at nearly half of Walmart’s U.S. stores, a milestone years in the making that highlights the brand’s rapid expansion in grocery stores as the restaurant industry remains under pressure during the coronavirus pandemic.
Getting Impossible Burger, the company’s main product, into more stores took on new urgency this year. Impossible Foods got its start in restaurants in 2016. But that industry is suffering as diners choose to stay home to reduce their potential exposure to COVID-19, or don’t even have the option of dining out, with restrictions on in-restaurant dining in many parts of the country. Plus, economic uncertainty is keeping more people in their homes rather than heading out for meals. Walmart being Walmart, the product will sell at a discount to other chains, albeit only a nickel difference from some others.
Back in March, Impossible Burger was only available at about 150 stores across the country. Now, it’s in more than 8,000 stores, including the addition of nearly 2,100 Walmart locations. While the push puts some pressure on rivals, Beyond Meat Inc. already sells its plant-based alternative at 25,000 stores across the country at a variety of chains including Walmart.
Walmart is the largest grocer and largest meat seller in the United States. For Impossible Foods, being at Walmart—even at fewer than half of the chain’s 4,756 stores—gives it unprecedented exposure. Impossible Burger will be sold in the fresh meat case at Walmart, which means it will be viewable to anyone already heading to that part of the store.
“There’s no more important institution in retail food than Walmart,” Impossible Foods CEO Pat Brown told reporters on Thursday morning during a press briefing conducted via Zoom. “They’re ubiquitous.”
The key to growth is getting the product in front of as many meat-eaters as possible. “Before they try it, they think it’s just going to suck,” Brown said. Once they try it, many become repeat buyers, he added.
During the briefing, Chief Financial Officer David Lee reflected on a conversation he had in 2017 at Walmart’s Bentonville, Arkansas headquarters with the retail giant’s CEO Doug McMillon, among others. And Brown said he met some Walmart executives at an event in 2011, five years before his product even hit restaurants.
The Impossible Burger will be available in nearly 2,100 Walmart Supercenter and Neighborhood Market locations across the country and through its grocery pickup and delivery channels. Walmart plans to sell the “meat” at a minor discount to other retailers that already stock the product. Impossible Foods stated that Walmart will be pricing the 12-ounce packages at $7.94 in most stores, the product’s lowest retail price to date. Kroger, the second-largest U.S. grocery retailer, sells it for $8.99. At Trader Joe’s, the package is priced at $7.99. Pricing is at the discretion of retailers.