Published on: April 3, 2019
We reported yesterday that Burger King will begin selling a Whopper made with a vegetarian patty manufactured by Impossible Foods, joining fast feeders such as White Castle and Carl’s Jr. in the move toward meatless alternatives.
I commented:or me, what seems impossible - or at least unlikely - is the likelihood that this thing is going to taste any good. When I had the White Castle version last year, it made me sick to my stomach … though, to be fair, pretty much everything at White Castle has that effect on my usually cast iron constitution.
It is not like I’m anti-vegetarian burgers. In fact, I had a great one last summer at the Irving Street Kitchen in Portland, Oregon … though, to be fair, pretty much everything at the Irving Street Kitchen tastes great.
Hmmm … I sense a pattern here.
I’m not a Burger King fan, and have pretty much sworn off most fast food, but I’ll pledge here and now to make a trip to Burger King in the next week or two to try this thing out.
MNB reader Tim McGuire responded:I understand your skepticism on veggie burgers but I think you’re wrong. A&W Canada has been selling the Beyond Meat burger for about a year now and, even as a lifelong “meatatarian” I’m a huge fan. It became so popular so quickly at A&W that they were out of stock for several weeks. Most people I’ve talked to can’t tell the difference between the Beyond Meat burger and the traditional (also very good) beef burger. High-quality plant-based foods that don’t require a taste sacrifice are the easiest way to improve your health and there environment - hopefully more companies will bring more products like this to the market soon!
MNB reader Dan Emerson wrote:I’ve had the Impossible Burger at my client’s cafeteria and have seen Impossible Meat options pop up in places throughout Boston (Local Fast-Food vegetarian restaurant/food truck Clover in particular does a very good Impossible Meatball platter or sub if you come across one when up this way). I’m not a vegetarian but try to be one when presented with a good option and have really enjoyed all my Impossible Meat-eating experiences. I wonder what White Castle is doing to screw it up?!? I’ll be checking out the Impossible Whopper….
MNB reader Carl Jorgensen wrote:Kudos to you for pledging to try the Burger King Impossible Whopper. Will be interested in your review!
I’m writing to make a prediction about Impossible Foods: They have an ingredient in their burger called heme that makes it “bleed” like real meat. It’s a cool idea, and it adds to the realistic meat-analog experience. However, what they are not telling the public, and which will come back to bite them (sorry!), is the fact that the heme ingredient is derived from vat fermentation of GMO microorganisms.
Consumers have made it abundantly clear for years now that they don’t want their food to be genetically engineered, even as they have no clear understanding of what genetic engineering actually is.
Companies defy consumers at their peril. Impossible can choose to continue downplaying the GMO status of their product, or they can choose switch to non-GMO sources of heme. I suggest that they choose the latter if they want their brand to be sustainable long-term, and I suggest that the companies aligning themselves with Impossible Foods take a closer look at this issue, lest it come back to bite them as well.
Just the phrase “heme ingredient is derived from vat fermentation of GMO microorganisms” makes me want to retch.
Got several emails about the new price-cutting initiative at Whole Foods.
MNB reader Brian Burnham wrote:Kevin, after spending last month in Florida at watching spring training, there was a Whole Foods a few block from the house we rented, we shopped there around 15 times, and at no time did any cashier ever ask me if I was a Prime Member, which I am, I am not for sure that programs works very well if the front line people are not pushing it.
I’ve had much the same experience. If I don’t bring it up, it doesn’t come up.
MNB reader Kelly Dean Wiseman wrote:It’s interesting that Mr. Bezos can get free messaging across the media just because of how big and scary he is to many retailers.
Announcing an across-the-board price cut and the media picks it up, turning it into instant free advertising. No one else seems to get that treatment.
Oh, and if you do go catch some of these amazing deals, watch closely for a few months. The last time they cut prices (and got free media attention) lasted only about a month. Then prices crept up again.
To give credit where credit is due, I think the Wall Street Journal
broke the story before Whole Foods wanted to release it.
MNNB reader Steve French (who in this context needs to be identified as a managing partner at NMI) wrote:With regard to your Whole Foods piece this morning, I’m not convinced that lowering prices is the right thing to do. That’s like offering a BOGO promotion on Tiffany jewelry or cash rebates at Bloomingdale’s.
Having personally provided 12+ years of continuous strategic marketing counsel, conducting their research and many other activities, NMI likely has the deepest, most longstanding knowledge base of Whole Foods, its shopper and the competitive environment. What we learned time and time again was that price discounts won’t increase penetration or market basket size as the core shopper is extremely price insensitive. They don’t read the flyers, use coupons, etc. and they certainly won’t become Amazon Prime Members. Additionally, after years and years of competitive price matching, they didn’t get any change in perception as shoppers didn’t even notice – “once Whole Paycheck, always Whole Paycheck.”
In other words, it’s all about “worth the price” - not the absolute price point.
With all that said, if the strategy is to attract a larger, more mainstream audience, then the strategy is viable. But… we found that the core shopper will defect if it becomes too mainstream, too crowded to shop, no parking spaces, and just not “special” anymore. It’s not about “value” to them – it’s about the alignment or personal “values” to those of Whole Foods. If they lose their most valuable and profitable shopper (think high margins), then an uptick in more mainstream shoppers (think lower margins) won’t be close to making up the difference.
Regarding the increasing vacancy rates at US malls, MNB reader Andy Casey wrote:Sadly for them, I (and my guess is most others) have yet to find anything I “simply can’t get from Amazon”.
MNB yesterday took note of a Wall Street Journal
story about while Walgreens Boots Alliance is testing a few tobacco-free stores in the US, the company “has no plans to quit selling cigarettes entirely.”
This despite the fact that chief rival CVS got out of the tobacco business years ago, citing its desire to be seen as credible in the healthcare business. (Declining sales probably helped to make the decision a little easier.)
The safety of our patients is very important, but we also have to do what our customers are requiring us to do,” says Walgreens Boots Chief Executive Stefano Pessina. “We see that when we don’t sell tobacco, we have a lot of [negative] reactions.”
I commented:Seems clear to me that Walgreens is choosing its lane, and it is less healthcare-focused than the one CVS has chosen.
For me, having decided that there is a special circle of hell for tobacco executives and their minions, CVS has made the right choice on a lot of levels - it has an eye on the future, not today’s transaction count.
One MNB reader responded:Not long after CVS's decision to stop selling cigarettes, there was a lot of concern in the industry on what would be next.... Candy, Ice Cream, Chips, Cola, etc….
If CVS was going to put on their Healthcare hat, it seems there are a lot of other potential categories they may go after.
I was in a meeting with a CVS executive, and we asked that very question... and received a great response.
It was along the lines of: CVS will not ban or stop selling products that are fine in moderation... You can have a candy bar and a soda with no lasting impact…
But CVS is going to ban anything that is bad for you from the moment it touches you…
We thought that was very clear and helpful to understand.
Walgreen's is going to have to find out what they stand for - and maybe they already have…
Yesterday I did an Eye-Opener piece about how, after using my Lyft app toi request a car, I was informed via text that my driver was either deaf or hard of hearing, and provided with a link to the Lyft site where I could quickly learn how to use sign language to say “hello” and “thank you.”
I commented:I think this is so cool, and I’m really glad that this driver was sent to pick me up, because it made me feel good about Lyft and the human condition in general.
People spend a lot of time these days worrying about those who are different from them, and wondering why everybody can’t be just like them. In this case, Lyft acknowledged the situation, and did a little something to create a bridge and establish a bond, if only for a moment.
MNB reader Jesse Sowell wrote:Kevin - I probably won't be the only or first person to point this out, but I was struck by the positioning of your note about Lyft, coming right after Michael's piece mentioned the difference between diversity and inclusion. With their texts to you about your driver's hearing challenges, Lyft ensured that your driver would be fully, truly included. And as you often point out, doing right by your people is right for business. Not only does this help Lyft attract the best drivers, it's another reason for me to continue to favor Lyft when I need a ride.
Great story. Thanks for sharing it.
Another MNB reader responded:Thanks for making the most of a teaching moment for all of your readers by including the visual/directions to say hello and thank you in your post. Your post ‘did a little something to create a bridge and establish a bond.’ Thanks for the oxytocin boost!
I had to check to see what oxytocin was, and found the following definition:Oxytocin is normally produced in the hypothalamus and released by the posterior pituitary. It plays a role in social bonding, sexual reproduction, childbirth, and the period after childbirth.
So I guess this was a good thing…?