Impossible, Blue Bottle and Shake Shack: How Large American Food Markets Pivot During Coronavirus

Impossible Foods on Monday became the latest major example of that. In an announcement shared exclusively with CNN Business, the company said it would begin allowing restaurants in Hong Kong to sell their burgers in bulk directly to customers.

The move to start treating restaurants more than retailers is part of a broader shift as the industry scrambles to adapt to the fallout from the pandemic. Other players, such as Shake Shack and Blue Bottle Coffee, have also recently launched new initiatives around the world to try to reach more customers as they spend more time at home.

In Hong Kong, Impossible is sending bulk items to a handful of its restaurant partners around the city in hopes that customers will start picking up their 10-patty packs to try to make their own plant-based burgers. The program follows similar initiatives the company has introduced this year in the United States and Singapore.

Nick Halla, former vice president of Impossible Foods’ international company, said the company was brainstorming how its partners would help diversify, as government restrictions hurt demand in Hong Kong, as do other parts of the world.

“A lot of what we hear, it’s kind of a rollercoaster,” he said.

“We looked at this and said,‘ Okay, this is a very good time for us to spend [the idea] here to support our restaurants. ‘To at least reduce the challenge they have a bit. I know it’s a small advantage, but it’s what we can do. “

Impossible has already seen an impact. In Singapore, restaurants participating in the resale program saw “an average increase of 88% in total sales in the first month, with more than half of this coming from direct-to-consumer sales of Impossible Burger,” Halla noted .

A historic crisis

As the decline of coronavirus continues, the trend is expected to grow. More restaurants are likely to deviate from their normal operations, and turn to more flexible options, such as delivery services and ordering smartphones, according to Euromonitor International, a market research provider.

The pandemic is “by far the worst crisis to affect the consumer food services industry in the aftermath of World War II,” researchers wrote in a report in April. “A reformed industry [is] after all. ”

Restaurants can offset some of the effects by coming up with new formats that do not rely on food-in-services, researchers noted. They predict that any operator that can combine its offerings with traditional groceries, such as through meal kits and other packaged goods, “will have a significant lifeline.”

Coffee Academics, a popular coffee chain in Asia, is one of the companies participating in Impossible’s new program.

In a statement, the company told CNN Business that trying to resale the idea was a natural next step for their business because it raced to change customers.

“Consumer demand and shopping habits have changed rapidly under an economy of partial decline, and our business has also adapted rapidly,” said Jennifer Liu, chair of the Academics Group, parent company of the coffee chain. “Impossible’s products fit well with our online strategy to meet the growing demand for cooking and food at home.”

Up to the streets

It is not only Impossible. Blue Bottle Coffee, the popular beverage brand that is majority owned by Swiss food giant Nestle (NSRGF), has set up multiple vending machines in Tokyo to reach people more easily.

The machines, which are cash, offer passers-by a chance to grab some cold brewery, instant coffee or used mugs with brand.

The new vending machines of Blue Bottle Coffee in Tokyo.  The company says it can expand the idea if they are successful.

While the idea is not new, it came at a good time, according to Blue Bottle. The company said that if the initiative proves successful, the concept could expand and add more machines to other locations.

“Although [this] was planned ahead of pandemic, we are glad we serve the needs of the people, especially amid the summer heat and humidity in Tokyo, “the company said in a statement.

Burgers and bandanas

Another iconic burger mark, Shake Shack (SHAK), is also taking advantage of the do-it-yourself trend. In April, it launched meal kits in the United States, allowing customers to assemble their own Shack burgers for the first time.
The set includes beef patties, potato rolls, cheese slices and Shake Shack’s signature sauce – “all the same ingredients we make,” the company said. It refused to disclose sales of the initiative.
They used to sell food to top chefs.  Now you are their best customer

This summer, the civic chain is doubling down on that idea. It rolled out “Shack Camp,” another offering of boxes that promised to deliver supplies for six weeks of activities to families co-oped at home.

This time, the box is meant to sell an experience. It comes with water balloons, bandanas, an ice cream and chips – along with vouchers for free burgers and a recommended itinerary.

“Create your own lemonade stand, whip up summers, tell scary stories around the campfire, flex those creative muscles with martial arts, throw the ultimate field day and get involved with your local community,” the company said in a statement.

Businesses make no secret of their intent to remind customers that they’re still around – and hungry for business. “It’s no secret that summer feels different this year,” the burger chain noted. “But Shake Shack is still here.”