Singapore a gateway for expansion? Not Impossible!

Singapore a gateway for expansion? Not Impossible!

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5 -min read
Listen to this article

Singapore

THE Impossible Burger - with its fully plant-based patty that has the taste and bite of real beef - has landed in Singapore.

Specifically, this "meat" was launched in eight restaurants here on Thursday: Adrift by David Myers, Bread Street Kitchen by Gordon Ramsay, CUT by Wolfgang Puck, Empress, Park Bench Deli, Potato Head Singapore, Privé Orchard and Three Buns Quayside.

This is the burger which has sparked a "consumer movement" in the US, where it is served in more than 5,000 restaurants. It has debuted in Hong Kong and Macau and is served in nearly 150 restaurants there, making Singapore the third Asian location for Impossible Foods, the company behind the product.

The US-based Impossible Foods has always put Singapore in its sights, given the city-state's melting pot of cultures and its being home to food trends.

In fact, the Temasek-backed company is counting on its success in Singapore to accelerate its expansion in Asia and the rest of the world, its chief operating officer and chief financial officer David Lee told The Business Times.

"Food trends these days are not limited to a continent or country. They are set globally. As a result, when you establish a great presence in a country like Singapore, you give yourself the chance to be well known - not just in Singapore, but beyond it.

"In fact, I suspect that the reaction here in Singapore will prove to all of Asia that Impossible Foods is ready to be at scale, and eventually be available everywhere where meat is."

The company's product, the Impossible Burger, derives its authentic meaty taste from an iron-containing molecule called heme, which occurs naturally in plants.

Impossible Foods' premise will appeal to pro-environment consumers: By leaving cows out of the equation in the production of this "meat", manufacturing the product uses up significantly less land and water, and produces less greenhouse gases than the meat industry does.

The product will be made available to all Singapore restaurants through distributor Classic Fine Foods.

Impossible Foods founder Pat Brown told BT last month at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas that the company is considering whether to manufacture the plant-based "meat" and to conduct product research in Singapore.

Mr Lee said the company is not ready to announce any firm plans for Singapore with regard to manufacturing and R&D, but that it is looking globally for the right countries in which to expand those operations. For one, the chosen location would have to be close to a market with a high concentration of meat-eaters.

Impossible now has a 67,000 sq ft plant in Oakland, California, and plans to make its product available for retail in the US this year.

With the Impossible Burger's launch in Singapore, the company hopes to spark a similar consumer movement like it did in the US.

Mr Lee said: "By starting with the most discerning chefs in the country, and arguably, in the world, their advocacy results in a consumer movement. And that consumer movement shows up with people sharing an Impossible Burger and posting about it voluntarily on social media - something we don't seem to control. We just seek to support it."

When the product goes viral on social media or by word of mouth, meat-eaters will start demanding that the Impossible Burger be served in more locations, he added. "It's similar to what we've seen in Hong Kong and Macau, and in the US. And in the US, it's proven to be the right formula for launching not just in urban locations, but even in rural locations across all different geographies."

Mr Lee says the firm is also not ready to disclose specific plans for Asia, but that it is working closely with Temasek to deepen its presence in the region.

Temasek co-led a US$114 million financing round in the company last year, bringing Impossible Foods' total funding to nearly US$400 million. Other backers of the firm include Bill Gates and Google Ventures.

Mr Lee said of Temasek: "When you have such a large global institution here in Singapore, with companies they have invested in in multiple markets in Asia, there's a natural ability for shared learning and partnerships to occur among its portfolio companies. And we believe that could be a strategic advantage for us."

Temasek's managing director of investment Anuj Maheshwari said in a statement on Wednesday: "As an investor with a long view, Temasek has been investing into trends driven by advances in technology, changing consumption patterns and sustainable solutions. We are pleased to support Impossible Foods in their efforts to develop and scale sustainable food solutions to meet growing demand and evolving consumer preferences."

As the company expands, its principal challenge would be to convince meat-eaters that the Impossible Burger "is not like the plant-based products they've tried in the past", said Mr Lee.

It goes to explain why Impossible Foods does not consider itself to be just another meat supplier; in fact, restaurants are already branding their dishes with the "Impossible" label.

Mr Lee said: "To convince them that our product is different and unique, and that it's a breakthrough, we believe that our brand is needed in order for consumers to see that this time, when they try our plant-based product, they're going to get something special, something crave-able. So for us, the brand is a critical means to achieve the mission."