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October 7, 2022updated 10 Oct 2022 10:40am

Impossible Foods cuts jobs in further plant-based blow

Evidence is stacking up on the fragility of growth in the US plant-based meat category.

By Simon Harvey

Impossible Foods, the US plant-based meat business, has cut “fewer than 50” jobs as part of a restructuring exercise under new CEO Peter McGuinness.

A spokesperson for the privately-owned company confirmed the numbers in a statement provided to Just Food after Bloomberg reported the recently-appointed chief executive, who joined the Impossible Burger maker in April, informed staff on Thursday (6 October) in an internal memo seen by the US-headquartered news agency.

“Earlier this week, we proactively made some organisational changes that strengthen our company and establish clear supply-and-demand functions to position us for our next phase of expansion. As a result, some roles were eliminated, but we’re continuing to actively recruit for key positions that will enable our continued growth,” the Impossible Foods’ spokesperson said.

Bloomberg noted the California-based business employs 800 people, although those figures were not clarified by Impossible Foods. The job cuts would appear to have the backing of founder Pat Brown, who took on the role of so-called chief visionary officer with the appointment of McGuinness.

The proposals fit with the general perception of slowing demand for plant-based meat in the US. Earlier this week, animal meat giant JBS in Brazil revealed an intention to exit its Planterra Foods meat-free business in the US only around two years since the launch of the Ozo brand.

There have been months of speculation around the status of the category in the US, first set off last December with a profit warning from Beyond Meat – Impossible Foods’ nearest rival, also located in California. Around the same time, Maple Leaf Foods in Canada launched a review of its animal-free protein operations, concluding later that consumer demand did not live up to its expectations and assumptions.

The “very high category growth rates previously predicted by many industry experts are unlikely to be achieved given current customer feedback, experience, buy rates and household penetration”, Maple Leaf has said, amid plans to reduce the size of the business and “right-size” manufacturing.

Alarm bells rang louder in September when The Very Good Food Company in Canada, also doing business in the US, effectively put the plant-based business on the market after months of financial uncertainty.

However, Impossible Foods sought to quell concerns around slowing sales in the US. “Contrary to reports about the performance of the plant-based meat category and a number of companies within it, we’re seeing hyper-growth, with over 60% year-over-year sales growth in retail alone,” the company said in the statement.

As a privately-owned company, Impossible Foods does not reveal its sales and profits like its peer Beyond Meat. Founded in 2009, about two years before the Impossible Sausage and chicken nuggets business, Beyond Meat’s share price has been on a downward spiral this year as its results missed market expectations.

Both companies serve the retail and foodservice channels, with Impossible Foods launching the Impossible Whoppers in the Burger King franchise. Meanwhile, Beyond Meat’s roll-out of its McPlant burger in McDonald’s ended this summer as the fast-food chain pulled the product from its menu after a trial run.

See Just Food’s analysis: Spectre raised of plant-based meat fragility as Very Good Food goes on the market

Is US plant-based meat market facing inflection point or short-term blip?

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