Impossible Foods Hires a Marketing Chief as It Seeks to Win Over Meat Eaters

Leslie Sims of Deloitte Digital will join the alternative-meat brand as chief marketing and creative officer in January

Impossible Foods’ plant-based ‘beef’ products in a supermarket refrigerator in Hong Kong.

Photo: LAM YIK/REUTERS

Alternative-meat maker Impossible Foods Inc. has hired Leslie Sims to fill the newly created post of chief marketing and creative officer ahead of a planned expansion in marketing, the company said. 

Ms. Sims, currently U.S. chief creative officer at Deloitte Digital, will assume her new role on Jan. 1.

Founded in 2011, Impossible Foods sells products including plant-based alternatives to beef burger patties, chicken nuggets and pork. Its products are sold at stores and restaurant chains including Starbucks and Burger King. It has also raised more than $2 billion in funding.

But until now, the company has done little marketing other than a brief national push last spring called “We Are Meat,” which targeted carnivores who hadn’t yet tried Impossible products.

Leslie Sims will become chief marketing and creative officer at Impossible Foods in January.

Photo: LiZa Kanaeva-HunsiCker

The brand’s new marketing will make the case that switching away from meat can benefit both the environment and consumer health, Ms. Sims said. But the company also wants to win consumers on taste, she said.

“We’re really going for not being the best plant-based meat—we’re going for being the best meat,” Ms. Sims said. 

The share of consumers who have tried the company’s products is “incredibly low,” she said, and it hasn’t been doing much to raise its profile to potential buyers. With household penetration of 5%, “It’s a massive upside,” she said. 

The company plans to go after people who eat both meat and plants, nicknamed “flexitarians,” Ms. Sims added. It will not be asking diners to renounce meat entirely, just to opt for a plant-based form part of the time. “We’re really targeting meat-eaters,” she said.

A competitor in meat-substitutes recently announced it was retrenching: Last month, Beyond Meat Inc. cut its full-year revenue outlook and said it was reducing its global workforce by nearly 20% as it focuses on lowering expenses amid rising costs, less demand for its products and more competition.

Sales volumes of refrigerated alternative-meat in the U.S. at multi-outlet retailers saw a drop of 11.9% in the 52 weeks ended Oct. 9, according to market-research firm IRI.

According to Impossible, the company’s dollar sales have grown 60% versus 52 weeks ago.

Revenue in the U.S. meat-alternatives industry is forecast to reach $8 billion this year from $3 billion in 2017, according to a September report from industry-research firm IBISWorld Inc. Growth is likely to moderate in the coming five years due to “an expected slowdown in the adoption of industry products and increased competitive pressure between the growing number of industry operators,” the report said. 

Plant-based substitutes must find new ways to differentiate themselves and attract customers now that the novelty may have faded, according to a report from market-research company Mintel Group Ltd.

“Like any new invention or technology, there’s a cool-down phase that naturally occurs when inflated expectations and the initial excitement around the innovation subsides,” it said. “The way forward will require investments in technologies and consumer-tailored products and messaging.”

Write to Megan Graham at megan.graham@wsj.com

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