(Updated October 6, 2021) The vegan chicken battle is on: Impossible Foods nuggets have landed at a major fast food chain. (Shots fired, Beyond Meat.) And we may or may not already have our dipping sauces ready…
The plant-based nuggets feature soy protein and sunflower oil. This gives them a similar taste and texture to that of animal-derived nuggets.
Where to find Impossible Foods’ chicken nuggets
The nuggets were initially only available in select restaurants, but Redwood City, California-based Impossible Foods didn’t wait long before expanding into fast food. Impossible Nuggets will be available at Burger King restaurants in Des Moines, Iowa; Boston, and Miami starting October 11. The nuggets will come in an eight-piece order with dipping sauce on the side.
Burger King launched the Impossible Whopper nationwide in August 2019. It is the first major fast food restaurant to carry the Impossible Nuggets.
Like it did with the Impossible Burger, the plant-based meat brand opted to launch its chicken-less nuggets in higher-end restaurants first, including David Chang’s Fuku in New York City, Marcus Samuelsson’s Red Rooster in Harlem and Miami, Sean Brock’s Joyland in Nashville, and Tal Ronnen’s Crossroads Kitchen in Los Angeles. Regional chains such as Fatburger and Gott’s Roadside also carry the nuggets. They are also available in major retail chains, including Walmart and Kroger.
The California-based vegan meat company first showcased its meatless nuggets at the Dot Foods Innovations trade show in July in St. Louis, Missouri.
Unlike the brand’s meatless burgers and sausages (currently only available for foodservice), the nuggets do not contain heme. Also known as soy leghemoglobin, short for legume hemoglobin, the company’s flagship ingredient gives Impossible’s products a meaty flavor and juicy texture. But the fact that heme is genetically modified has barred the company from launching its products in the Europe and China mainland markets.
“In prototypes, we did include a small amount of heme and tested without,” Laura Kliman, Impossible’s senior flavor scientist, told Bloomberg. “We found in a nugget format, which is breaded and has some seasoning, it really wasn’t that necessary.
The company isn’t the only one to enter the vegan chicken wars. The Impossible Foods’ rival Beyond Meat rolled out vegan chicken tenders this summer.
The Beyond Chicken Tenders launched in nearly 400 restaurants around the country. They feature a crispy breading and are made from a variety of plant-based ingredients—such as faba beans and peas. They also look, cook, and taste just like their animal-derived counterparts.
“We’re innovating the poultry market with the new Beyond Chicken Tenders—the result of our tireless pursuit for excellence and growth at Beyond Meat,” said Dariush Ajami, Chief Innovation Officer, Beyond Meat.
The vegan chicken market has certainly taken off in recent years. LikeMeat, which is part of LIVEKINDLY Collective’s portfolio of brands, made its official U.S. debut earlier this year, launching vegan chicken at Sprouts Farmers Market.
Other players that are relatively new to the vegan chicken game include Simulate, formerly known as Nuggs, and Daring Foods. The former recently landed an investment from Jay-Z’s investment firm, Marcy Venture Partners.
In addition to the plant-based chicken, Impossible Foods may follow in Beyond Meat’s footsteps again. The company is reportedly set to go public on the stock market within the next year. Its initial public offering is valued at around $10 billion.
Beyond Meat became the first vegan company to IPO in 2019. Its stock skyrocketed by 163 percent on its first day of trading. It was valued at $13 billion only three months after going public.