In the past few years, two brands of plant-based burgers have emerged as consumer favorites. Both brands – Impossible and Beyond – enjoy widespread recognition among plant-based buyers and their burgers are increasingly found in grocery stores and restaurants.
What separates these two brands in the minds of consumers? In this blog, we share Moonshot Collaborative’s exclusive insights into what plant-based buyers think about both brands, based on surveys of more than 500 consumers. In short, we found that one brand consistently performs better than the other; but we also found a big caveat.
Two well-known players, two different strategies
While Beyond was the first to be sold in supermarkets, Impossible began by selling through restaurants. Today, both are widely available in grocery stores and restaurants across the United States. However, Impossible burgers are available in more restaurants (including Burger King) and Beyond burgers are sold in more grocery locations.
So it’s not surprising that plant-based buyers have tried both about equally:
The above is from an exclusive Moonshot Collaborative survey of 540 plant-based buyers conducted in January 2023. People are very slightly more likely to have tried Impossible burgers, which is especially true among those 18-24 and 45-54, and those who identify themselves as regular meat eaters or “omnivores.” Interestingly, those who are vegetarian or mostly vegetarian are more likely to have tried Beyond burgers.
A few more demographic and regional differences:
- Women are slightly more likely to have tried both brands, especially Impossible, but very slightly less likely to have enjoyed the experience. Women are also more motivated to try plant-based because of health concerns, while men are more likely to do so because of convenience.
- Gen Z consumers are most likely to have tried both brands, most likely to have enjoyed them, and most likely to buy them again. Though based on a small sample size, Gen Z consumers of Impossible burgers are primarily motivated by taste, while Gen Z Beyond consumers are mostly motivated by animal welfare.
- Impossible burgers are slightly more popular among consumers in the Northeast and South regions of the U.S., while Beyond is very slightly more popular in the West.
- People with lower average household incomes are much more likely to have tried Impossible than Beyond, and particularly more likely to have tried Impossible “in a casual or fast-food restaurant.”
- Those who identify as meat eaters, omnivores, or “plant-based” are more likely to have tried Impossible. Those who identify as “mostly plant-based,” mostly vegetarian, or vegetarian are more likely to have tried Beyond.
Although the differences are modest, we see each brand’s strategy reflected in the survey results. For example, Beyond burgers are slightly more likely to have been consumed at home, while Impossible burgers are much more likely to have been consumed in a fast-food restaurant, undoubtedly due to the Burger King partnership.
Consumers like both Beyond and Impossible
Overall, a vast majority of the plant-based buyers we surveyed like both brands of burgers. More than four in five (84%) said they liked Beyond burgers, including 48% who liked them extremely or very much. Even more people (89%) said they liked Impossible burgers, including 56% who liked them extremely or very much. One in ten (11%) said they disliked Beyond burgers and only 7% disliked Impossible burgers.
When consumers are asked how likely they are to buy each brand in the next year, the data tell pretty much the same story. Two-thirds of consumers (67%) say they are likely to buy Beyond burgers, including 27% who say they are “extremely” likely. Just over three-fourths (77%) say they are likely to buy Impossible burgers in the next year, including 30% who say they are “extremely” likely to do so. Less than 20% of plant-based buyers say they are unlikely to buy these two brands of burgers in the next year.
So, besides availability, what’s driving these relatively modest differences between brands? Our survey found that consumers are slightly more likely to prefer the taste and health benefits of Impossible burgers, but they associate Beyond burgers with being better for animals. This may be due to Beyond burgers having been on the market for a longer time and having established some loyalty among early, ethically-motivated adopters.
On the other hand, we also asked the minority of consumers who are unlikely to buy these brands to tell us why they’re not planning to repurchase. About half (54% for Impossible and 46% for Beyond) of this small segment said they didn’t like the taste relative to conventional beef burgers. We also heard consumers express concerns about price and processing, and tell us that they tried these brands of burgers just once, out of curiosity.
Here’s the catch
As we can see from the survey results, consumer experiences with Beyond and Impossible differ in small, but meaningful ways. But here’s the catch: most consumers can’t tell the difference between Impossible and Beyond burgers. In short, there is a lot of consumer confusion between brands. We presented plant-based buyers with a series of six knowledge questions and, for five of them, most people did not know how to answer.
Specifically, at least two-thirds of survey respondents (67-71%) said they’re not sure which brand the statement applies to. Among the remaining survey takers, nearly as many people chose the wrong burger brand as those who got it right. In fact, the only statement that most people got right was Impossible burgers being found at Burger King. Differentiators like the use of “heme” or other ingredients are lost on most consumers — at least as a marketing angle.
What does all of this mean for Beyond and Impossible? A few thoughts:
- Both burger brands are popular among plant-based buyers, but Impossible consistently has the edge over Beyond. In particular, Impossible burgers appeal more to regular meat consumers and Beyond has more traction among vegetarians.
- On a related note, Impossible seems to have a more of a “health halo” than Beyond, but Beyond seems to have captured more consumers who are motivated by animal welfare.
- Impossible’s availability at Burger King is influencing the results, as reflected in the fact that younger and lower-income people are more likely to eat at fast food outlets and more likely to have tried Impossible burgers.
- Taste continues to be the most important factor in plant-based foods. It is both the number one reason why people are likely to buy these brands again and also the main reason that some consumers say they won’t be repeat customers.
- The plant-based industry’s focus on unique ingredients (e.g., heme) and clean labels may be a non-factor in messaging to most consumers. While those ingredients may be essential to creating a better eating experience, they may not be worth emphasizing in a company’s marketing or branding.
- Many plant-based buyers are simply unaware of the differences between brands – and they may not care.
Are there other plant-based brands you’d like to see us explore? Email us with your suggestions! If you’re looking for data specific to your brand or product, Moonshot Collaborative can help you get the insights you need to make key decisions.
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Photo by Shaafi Ali on Unsplash.