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Impossible Foods is having a roller-coaster summer.
In April, reports began emerging that the plant-based meat startup, which sells its products in restaurants and fast-food chains like Burger King across the country, was running out of its fake meat. The problems deepened over the ensuing months: Impossible Foods stopped selling to many restaurants, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, and then switched to offering faster-to-produce five-pound bricks of protein instead of pre-shaped patties.
It gets worse. As CNN wrote last month:
Some of the office workers have been voluntarily reassigned to Impossible's factory in Oakland, where they work 12-hour shifts in what is essentially a warehouse-sized refrigerator. The temperature is 38 degrees, and the tasks include packing boxes and operating machinery. They've given up weekends, toiling from 3 PM to 3 AM or vice versa.
On Wednesday, the company announced a key step in its plan to resolve the problem. Impossible Foods is partnering with OSI Group, a giant food production company, and will immediately begin churning out Impossible Burgers at one of OSI Group's facilities in the Midwest, according to AP News. Production will reportedly spread to other OSI Group facilities soon.
Interestingly, this isn't what Impossible Foods wanted. Check out this tidbit at the very bottom of the AP News story: "[Impossible Foods president Dennis] Woodside said Impossible had a lot of internal discussions about how to scale up, and had plans drawn up to go it alone. But the company ultimately decided it would be better to have an expert partner."
Every high-profile startup goes through growing pains, which can involve running out of product and working your team to the bone. You could even argue that this is a good problem to have: There is so much demand that Impossible Foods couldn't keep up with supply. Plant-based burgers are getting too popular.
Meanwhile, partnerships can be tricky. You have to share your intellectual property with someone else. You have to compete for production time and space with other companies. You might lose money, through either a revenue share or paying your partner directly.
But every startup has a window to grab as much market share as possible. Clearly, Impossible Foods thinks its window is now: The company also announced Wednesday that it's been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to sell its burgers in grocery stores, beginning in September.
One of its chief competitors, Beyond Meat, already has a large presence in stores--and a big chunk of the limelight thanks to its recent IPO. Impossible's partnership could be a crucial ingredient in its next phase of growth, and it comes not a moment too soon.
Especially for those office workers sacrificing their summers on a 38-degree factory floor.