Impossible Burger enters 2,100 Walmart stores across the U.S.
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.
Shares of Beyond Meat were down 2.5 percent at $123.50 in afternoon trading. Beyond Meat products are available in more than 2,500 Walmart stores across the country, according to SPINS/IRI data. Walmart began selling Beyond Beef crumbles in 2016, the Beyond Burger in 2019 and Beyond Sausage in 2020. In June, Beyond Meat began selling a 10-pack Cookout Classic of its plant-based patties in a majority of Walmart and Target stores in the U.S. Those 10-packs, at $15.99, were only set to be available through mid-August or until supplies ran out, as a way to bring a less-pricey option to shoppers.
Brown and Lee signaled there is more news to come, including plans to bring Impossible Sausage, currently available on sandwiches at restaurants such as Burger King and Starbucks, into retail. There are also plans to introduce other products based on meats including an Impossible Pork product that was demonstrated at CES in January.
“We’ll be releasing news almost on a monthly basis as our scale increases,” Lee said.
Don’t expect the company to go public soon, though. “We are absolutely not making any announcement on any public offering,” Lee said.
Impossible Foods needed to ramp up its supply capabilities in order to meet the potential demand for products at a customer as massive as Walmart. Last summer, a supply shortage during a growth period for the company left some restaurants without the signature product. Impossible Foods then added shifts at its own production facilities and lined up deals with co-manufacturers.
“It has taken us two to three years to make sure that we can really supply the world’s largest retailer,” Lee said.