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Don’t Have A Cow: Meatless Alternatives Have Local Diners Lining Up

September 5, 2019 Chris Bertke and Todd Boyman
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

In January 2018, the Impossible Burger first arrived in the St. Louis market. The meat-free patty was just like the real thing — it even bled. It became an immediate sensation. But it was soon snapped up by Burger King for its “Impossible Whopper.” After a hugely successful rollout right here in St. Louis, its popularity made the Impossible patties too popular for many locals to obtain. 

But they still had plenty of options. Some have experimented on their own to create tasty meat-free concoctions. Others are turning to more local alternatives. 

On Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air, Todd Boyman, CEO of Hungry Planet, discussed the way demand for the Impossible Burger is driving interest in his products, which include animal-free versions of everything from beef to crab. 

“Impossible has raised $750 million,” Boyman said. “That gets people’s attention. Beyond Meat raised $200 million, and then went public and raised another $350 million. That also gets a lot of attention. Those two things have been wonderful inflection points in the education of the market. What we find is that this is a global phenomenon. There’s demand for what we’re doing globally, which is really exciting.”

Boyman was joined by Chris Bertke, executive chef of the newly opened vegan-focused restaurant Utah Station. The restaurant is 90% vegan — and has seen lines out the door for Bertke’s meat-free imitations of Jack in the Box tacos and toasted ravioli.

“I’m basically going for vegan junk food, fast food, and so far it’s working,” he said. “We’re doing a vegan version of a Big Mac, and it’s selling crazy. Whatever I happen to come up with at midnight or one in the morning after a couple drinks, I experiment and there we go.” The response has been huge, he said. “I wasn’t expecting it. It’s crazy.”

Listen here:

Talk show intern Alexis Moore also spoke with Jonathan Schoen, a co-owner of Polite Society. The Lafayette Square hot spot was one of the first in the area to offer the Impossible Burger. Now, he said, the restaurant is having to ration it. Listen here:

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill, Lara Hamdan and Alexis Moore. The engineer is Aaron Doerr, and production assistance is provided by Charlie McDonald.

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Sarah Fenske served as host of St. Louis on the Air from July 2019 until June 2022. Before that, she spent twenty years in newspapers, working as a reporter, columnist and editor in Cleveland, Houston, Phoenix, Los Angeles and St. Louis.