Lightlife calls out Beyond Meat and Impossible over processed ingredients in open letter

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In an open letter advertised in national newspapers, Lightlife Foods has attacked Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods over their use of processed ingredients. Impossible has responded with a letter of its own.

Lightlife has launched a ‘Clean Break’ campaign against plant-based meat giants Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods over their alleged use of “hyper-processed ingredients, GMOs, unnecessary additives and fillers, and fake blood” in an open letter posted on its website and advertised in newspapers including the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

In anticipation of its latest plant-based burger that contains 11 ingredients, Lightlife, a subsidiary of meat giant Maple Leaf Foods, says it wants the same things as the other companies, but has chosen a different way to achieve the goal of “a greener planet and a more sustainable food system”.

The letter reads: “We’re making a clean break from both of you ‘food tech’ companies that attempt to mimic meat at any cost. We are, and always have been, a real food company.  One that is committed to using simple ingredients and methods to make clean and delicious plant-based food.”

Signed off by Lightlife Foods president Dan Curtin, the letter continues: “People deserve plant-based protein that is developed in a kitchen, not a lab. Our burger has only 11 ingredients. That’s it — not 18 or 20.”

Those ingredients, as listed on the website are: water, pea protein, canola oil, coconut oil, natural flavours, modified plant fibre-cellulose, sea salt, vinegar, beet powder, cane sugar and cherry powder.

“Our ingredients are clean, recognisable, and simple to pronounce. We are making a clean break because the real future of protein is cleaner, tastier, and nutritionally superior,” says the company. “We’re going beyond, and it isn’t impossible. In fact, we’re already on the way.”

In a statement to FoodDive, Curtin said: “The thing that screamed out to us time and time again was [that] consumers are a little confused about plant-based. They looked at some of the ingredient decks. They didn’t understand why there were so many ingredients in them. There were things in there that they weren’t familiar with. But 98% of the people we spoke to said that their needs were not being met, that they couldn’t find what they were looking for.”

Impossible Foods responded with its own open letter on Medium, calling Lightlife’s claims “false” and “highly misleading”. Impossible called it “a disingenuous, desperate disinformation campaign attempting to cast doubt on the integrity of our products”.

“The campaign leans on spurious arguments typically used by the meat industry,” read the letter. “Attack Impossible’s products not based on their indisputable quality, nutrition, wholesomeness or deliciousness, but based on the number of ingredients — a logic-defying concept with zero relevance to health or product quality, intended to distract consumers from the obvious inferiority of Lightlife and Maple Leaf’s products.”

The letter went on to highlight the fact that Lightlife is financed by one of North America’s largest animal agricultural companies, labelling the campaign as a “desperate attempt” to demerit Impossible and its products, “against which [Lightlife] can’t compete on quality or value”.

Anay Mridul
Anay Mridul
Anay is journalism graduate from City, University of London, he was a barista for three years, and never shuts up about coffee. He's passionate about coffee, plant-based milk, cooking, eating, veganism, writing about all that, profiling people, and the Oxford Comma. Originally from India, he went vegan in 2020, after attempting (and failing) Veganuary. He believes being environmentally conscious is a basic responsibility, and veganism is the best thing you can do to battle climate change. He gets lost at Whole Foods sometimes.