‘Im­pos­si­ble Burger’ com­ing to lo­cal chain

Ve­gan sand­wich to be added to Hur­ri­cane Grill & Wings menu

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - - Money - By Ron Hurt­ibise South Florida Sun Sen­tinel

The plant-based, ve­gan Im­pos­si­ble Burger is be­com­ing im­pos­si­ble to avoid.

Since its July 2016 in­tro­duc­tion in New York City, the meat­less prod­uct many afi­ciona­dos say best repli­cates the fla­vor, ap­pear­ance and tex­ture of a real ham­burger has been in­tro­duced in 5,000 restau­rants in the United States.

On Mon­day, that num­ber will in­crease by 56 when the Im­pos­si­ble Burger is added to menus of South Florida-based Hur­ri­cane Grill & Wings, ac­cord­ing to an an­nounce­ment this week by the par­ent com­pa­nies of the two brands.

Hur­ri­cane Grill & Wings, with nine lo­ca­tions in the tri­county re­gion, will join nearly 100 other South Florida restau­rants of­fer­ing the burger, in­clud­ing chains Duffy’s Sports Grill, Dave & Buster’s and dozens of stand­alone restau­rants.

Out­side of Florida, White Cas­tle in­tro­duced its ver­sion, called the Im­pos­si­ble Slider, in 140 of its restau­rants in April, then in Septem­ber ex­panded its avail­abil­ity to all 377 com­pany-owned lo­ca­tions. Restau­rant news web­site Eater.com in April called the White Cas­tle ver­sion “one of the coun­try’s best fast-food burg­ers, pe­riod.”

Be­gin­ning in 2019, the Im­pos­si­ble Burger will be avail­able at super­mar­kets, ac­cord­ing to an an­nounce­ment Thurs­day by Im­pos­si­ble Foods, the Sil­i­con Val­ley com­pany that de­vel­oped the meat sub­sti­tute.

Hur­ri­cane Grill’s par­ent, FAT Brands, which fi­nal­ized its ac­qui­si­tion of the com­pany in early July, in­tro­duced the Im­pos­si­ble Burger at its Fat­burger chain on the West Coast, said Gregg Net­tle­ton, pres­i­dent and chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer of FAT Brands’ Ca­sual Din­ing Divi­sion.

“It did well and res­onated well” at Fat­burger, Net­tle­ton said. Last spring, FAT Brands ex­panded it to its Buf­falo Cafe chain in the At­lanta area, and “it also did well there.”

Those brands’ suc­cess with the prod­uct con­vinced FAT Brands to in­tro­duce it at Hur­ri­cane Grill & Wings, which was founded in Fort Pierce in 1995 and now has 39 lo­ca­tions statewide, Net­tle­ton said.

“It looks like a burger. It presents like a burger. It tastes like a burger, but it’s plant-based,” he said. “It’s ev­ery­thing about a burger with­out eat­ing beef for those in­clined not to choose a beef prod­uct.”

Cost of the Im­pos­si­ble Burger will aver­age $11.49 — about $1 more than a reg­u­lar burger, Net­tle­ton said. That’s be­cause the whole­sale cost for the meat sub­sti­tute is higher than a nor­mal ham­burger. But the higher price has not de­terred fans from buy­ing it, he said.

Made from wheat and potato pro­teins and co­conut oil, the prod­uct de­rives its unique red meat-like con­sis­tency and fla­vor from heme, an iron-con­tain­ing com­pound found in blood. In fact, one of its taglines is: “It bleeds.”

Im­pos­si­ble Foods’ founders de­vel­oped a method to ex­tract heme DNA from soy plants and grow it by in­sert­ing it into yeast and fer­ment­ing it — “very sim­i­lar to the way Bel­gian beer is made,” the com­pany’s web­site says. “But in­stead of pro­duc­ing al­co­hol, our yeast mul­ti­ply and pro­duce a lot of heme.”

The com­pany’s web­site de­clares it’s on a mis­sion to save meat and the Earth. “Us­ing an­i­mals to make meat is a pre­his­toric and de­struc­tive tech­nol­ogy. An­i­mal agri­cul­ture oc­cu­pies al­most half the land on Earth, con­sumes a quar­ter of our fresh­wa­ter and de­stroys our ecosys­tems. So we’re do­ing some­thing about it.”

Still, its sta­tus as a GMO (ge­net­i­cally mod­i­fied or­gan­ism) has spawned con­tro­versy among GMO crit­ics. Im­pos­si­ble Foods is trans­par­ent about the prod­uct’s in­gre­di­ents and man­u­fac­tur­ing process and in a Q&A sec­tion of its web­site bluntly an­swers “Yes” to the ques­tion, “Do you pro­duce heme by ge­netic mod­i­fi­ca­tion?”

A launch date has not yet been an­nounced for Im­pos­si­ble Burger’s avail­abil­ity in gro­cery stores next year. But the com­pany says it’s strongly an­tic­i­pated.

“By far the No. 1 mes­sage from fans on so­cial me­dia is, ‘When will I be able to buy and cook the Im­pos­si­ble Burger at home?’” said Dr. Patrick Brown, Im­pos­si­ble Foods’ CEO and founder, in the news re­lease this week. “We can’t wait un­til home chefs ex­pe­ri­ence the magic and de­light of the first plant­based meat that ac­tu­ally cooks and tastes like meat from an­i­mals — with­out any com­pro­mise.”

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