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Imperfect Foods' business is booming during the pandemic
(CNN Business) —  

Impossible Foods is partnering with a major meat processor to increase its capacity.

Impossible which makes meatless alternatives to burgers and sausage, has struggled to keep up with a surge in orders. Demand for meat substitutes like Impossible’s has been growing as people try to reduce their meat intake for health or environmental reasons.

Teaming up with OSI, a private company that produces food and processes meat, should help Impossible keep up with future surges in demand and allow it to scale quickly.

OSI has more than 65 facilities in 17 countries. For now, just one of those, in Chicago, will make the raw product. Others can help produce it in a finished form, such as sausage.

An Impossible burger patty is being seasoned at the test kitchen inside Impossible Foods headquarters in Redwood City, California.
Stephen Lam for CNN
An Impossible burger patty is being seasoned at the test kitchen inside Impossible Foods headquarters in Redwood City, California.

Impossible and OSI have essentially set up a replica of the plant-based food company’s Oakland production facility within the Chicago plant, explained Sheetal Shah, senior vice president of product and operations for Impossible.

Impossible has a dedicated, enclosed production room within the partner facility. OSI employees who make the product have to key into the room. The separation protects the plant-based protein from meat and other contamination.

“The equipment, the processes are exactly the same,” at OSI, Shah told CNN Business. “Is it a copy-paste? Not exactly, but it’s pretty close.”

One difference is that the Impossible manufacturing area within the OSI plant is a lot bigger than Impossible’s 68,000-square-foot factory, he said.

Impossible could use the extra space to fill a skyrocketing number of orders. In January, roughly 5,000 restaurants served Impossible’s product. Today, that figure has doubled. By the end of the year, once Burger King has rolled the Impossible Whopper out nationally, that figure will likely hit around 17,000 restaurants.

With just the one facility in Oakland, Impossible has struggled to meet demand. Earlier this year, the company said it was running out of its signature patties. A few weeks ago, the company was finally able to say that the shortage has ended.

OSI will start making the product next month.

Dennis Woodside, Impossible’s president, described the deal as a “long-term, multi-year partnership,” adding that OSI has made a “meaningful capital investment” in the plant.

A technician places a flag toothpick into a burger with an Impossible burger patty at the test kitchen inside Impossible Foods headquarters in Redwood City, California.
Stephen Lam for CNN
A technician places a flag toothpick into a burger with an Impossible burger patty at the test kitchen inside Impossible Foods headquarters in Redwood City, California.

The deal, he added, may allow Impossible to start working with OSI’s customers. OSI did not share who it works with, but described its clients as leading restaurant chains and retail brands.

There’s no question fast food restaurants are interested in meat substitutes.

Impossible already sells to a number of chains, such as Burger King, White Castle, Qdoba and Little Caesars. Others, including Dunkin’ and Tim Hortons, serve meat substitutes made by Beyond Meat (BYND), Impossible’s main competitor.

Beyond also sells plant-based patties and “ground beef” in grocery stores. Impossible plans to start selling in retail later this year.