On June 4, SFR published a story about local restaurants that carry the meat-free Impossible Burger, including Rowley Farmhouse Ales, Plaza Café Southside and Chili Line Brewing. The Impossible Burger, after all, seems impossibly popular within a sea of meat substitutes that often boil down to not-so-flavorful disc of things.
Anyway, we didn't get too deep about the particulars in that food story. But the basic info is that through genetic engineering (save the ethics complaints for another day), Impossible Foods, the company behind the product, is able to produce the Heme molecule (the one that makes your blood red) with the roots of soy plants. There are other trade secrets at work, but suffice it to say, Impossible Foods created a plant-based burger that cooks like meat and kinda-sorta-mostly tastes like meat.
By the end of that first week in June, however, emails started rolling in from SFR readers claiming they could no longer find the item anywhere in town. But why?
"It's not a city-wide shortage, it's a regional shortage," says Rowley Farmhouse Ales' Jeffrey Kaplan. "They basically failed at manufacturing 101 and expanded into new markets before they could take care of existing markets."
Kaplan says Rowley was one of the first Santa Fe eateries to offer the Impossible Burger, but even before it did, the restaurant had to be waitlisted for roughly a year before it had access to the product. That was a couple years ago at this point, however, and Kaplan says that longstanding customers of Impossible Foods should take precedence. Further, Kaplan says, his restaurant's inability to stock the meat-free burger has been costing Rowley customers.
"We've had people walk in the door and the first thing they do before sitting down is ask about the [Impossible Burger], and then turn around and walk about when we don't," Kaplan tells SFR. "It's gotten to the point where we took if off our menu because we got tired of having to explain it."
An employee of the Plaza Café Southside told SFR by phone that the Impossible Burger is MIA from their menu as well. So what's going on?
"As you no doubt know, we are struggling to keep up with scorching demand for the Impossible Burger. The issue is not unique to Santa Fe or any single region," says chief communications officer for Impossible Foods Rachel Konrad by email. "Growth has come from every sales category where Impossible Foods does business—independent restaurants, large restaurant chains, such as White Castle, Qdoba and Red Robin, and non-commercial outlets such as theme parks, museums, stadiums and college campuses nationwide. Sales have increased four times in Asia over the past three months alone."
To keep up with this incredible demand, Konrad says Impossible Foods is actively hiring more workers for its plant in Oakland, California, where operations run 24 hours a day (that's two 12-hour shifts). Further, Konrad says, Impossible Foods recently hired Sheetal Shah, a former executive from Verifone and Motorola with experience in scaling up businesses faced with "breakthrough growth." Otherwise, Konrad says, Impossible Foods isn't making announcements about its upcoming manufacturing strategies, but that it's doing everything it can to get product to established customers.
But what does that mean for right now in Santa Fe?
Kaplan says he's been assured by his distributors that Rowley Farmhouse Ales should have the Impossible Burger back on the menu this week. No word from the other restaurants who carry it yet but, as always, it may be wise to call before a visit.
"It's been so popular we'd been going through 80 or so a week," Kaplan adds. "If I had another option, I'd probably go with the other option, but all the other veggie burgers on the market are just that—veggies. It's a very unique product."