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Image credit: Impossible Foods

Impossible Foods enters Asia’s supermarkets to take on Beyond Meat, regional upstarts

October 27, 2020

Impossible Foods is making its products available to home cooks in Asia for the first time, with the debut of its Impossible Beef range in select supermarkets in the region.

The plant-based beef alternative can now be purchased off the shelf at Park N Shop stores in Hong Kong and Fairprice outlets in Singapore. Online shoppers in the Southeast Asian city-state will also be able to buy the range from e-grocer RedMart.

Impossible Beef has already been on the menu for Asian diners for a while at restaurants, hawker stalls, and other foodservice establishments, arriving in Singapore in March 2019 and Hong Kong and Macau the previous year.

Impossible Foods has raised a total of $1.5 billion in funding since it launched in 2011. Close to half of that figure has come in since the start of 2020, much of it from big-name Asian backers.

In March the California-based company closed a $500 million Series F round led by South Korea’s Mirae Asset Global Investments. Existing investors including Hong Kong VC Horizons Ventures and Singapore sovereign fund Temasek also participated.

It raised a further $200 million in a Series G round led by New York’s Coatue Management in August, with Mirae Asset and Temasek among the return investors.

The company said that some of the Series F and G proceeds would be invested into research and development, recruitment of technical talent, product commercialization, and growing its manufacturing capacity. It recently announced plans to double the size of its Silicon Valley-based R&D team over the next 12 months, as well as opening 10 ‘Impossible Investigator’ roles which it describes as “high-impact alternatives to traditional academic faculty positions” to “create an entirely new […] platform to replace animals as our technology for turning plants into meat, fish and dairy foods.”

The funds were also intended to be deployed to increase Impossible Foods’ footprint in “key international markets.” A spokesperson for the company previously told AFN it would focus its expansion “primarily in Asia” because it “represents more than 40% of the global demand for animal meat.”

However, it’s far from alone in trying to stake an early claim in Asia Pacific’s burgeoning alt-protein market.

NASDAQ-listed archrival Beyond Meat recently announced it will begin retail sales in China through a partnership with Alibaba-owned ‘new retail’ supermarket chain Freshippo. It had earlier collaborated with StarbucksKentucky Fried Chicken, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell outlets in the country to offer menu items containing its plant-based ‘meat.’

The fellow Californian outlet announced last month that it will build two factories in Jiaxing, Zhejiang — which it claims makes it “the first multinational company focused solely on plant-based meat production” to set up its own production facility in China.

Another US plant-based player, Eat Just, signed a $120 million deal with “natural resources investor” Proterra last week to build a factory in Singapore with a focus on mass-producing its vegan egg substitute, Just Egg, for Asian markets.

Australia’s v2food just raised $55 million from Horizons Ventures, Temasek, and others with a view to taking its legume-derived minced ‘meat’ to market in Asia. V2food CEO Nick Hazell told AFN that the startup sees itself as complementary to the traditional meat industry – in contrast to Beyond Meat’s aim to make animal meat “obsolete” and Impossible Foods’ mission to eliminate what it calls “the most destructive technology in human history: animal agriculture.”

Other regional startups gaining traction in the meat-free protein space include Hong Kong “plant-based platform” Green Monday, which netted $70 million last month from TPG‘s Rise Fund, Swire Pacific, and other investors for its food manufacturing and retail concept.

Japan’s Daiz raised $6 million Series A funding in May from Mitsubishi UFJ and other investors. It manufactures a soybean-based meat replacement called Miracle Chip that can be formed into patties and other shapes.

Shenzhen plant-based protein maker Starfield has raised a total of $10 million since launching in 2017, including an angel round in March this year co-led by Beyond Meat backer New Crop Capital and Dao Foods and a Series A funding in August featuring Sky9 Capital, Matrix Partners, and Joy Capital.

Shanghai-based Hey Maet secured an undisclosed amount of funding from Shuangta Food — a supplier of pea protein to Beyond Meat — to grow its range of pea, rice, and soy protein meat alternatives targeting Chinese consumers.

Next Gen came out of stealth in Singapore earlier this month with $2.2 million in seed funding. It’s aiming to manufacture plant-based meat analogs in the city-state and export them to China, Europe, and North America, with a target of supplying 9,000 restaurants and launching its consumer retail brand within the next six months.

Closer to home, Impossible Foods is also launching its alt-beef in Canadian grocery stores for the first time. Retail group Sobeys — which operates chains including Foodland, IGA, Safeway, and Thrifty Foods — will be the exclusive vendor of the range in Canada until February 2021.

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