For Nestlé, its meatless beef with Impossible Foods Inc has ended less than incredibly. Last week, a European court ruled that the multi-national food and drink giant must change the name of its “Incredible” plant-based burger for violation of trademarks.
The legal tiff began when Nestlé decided it would launch its soy and wheat protein burger in Europe in April 2019. Impossible isn’t in Europe just yet but last October it filed an application to the European Food Safety Authority to sell soy leghemoglobin—also known as heme, the protein that makes Impossible Burgers look bloody and taste like meat. At the time, the application seemed like a big signal that Impossible Foods was looking to make inroads in the European market.
In its ruling, the Dutch court highlighted the fact that Nestlé had reached out to Impossible for a potential licensing deal in summer 2018—only to later announce it would strike out on its own. According to the Financial Times, that led the court to believe Nestlé was trying to trip up a rival by offering a similar product under a similar name. To be fair, if you google ‘Incredible burger’, the first result is the Impossible Foods website.
“We are disappointed by this provisional ruling as it is our belief that anyone should be able to use descriptive terms such as ‘incredible’ that explain the qualities of a product,” Nestle said in a statement to the Financial Times. “We will of course abide by this decision, but in parallel, we will file an appeal.”
The plant-based meat industry is hot right now, and the alternative meat market is expected to grow by roughly 28 percent a year and could be worth $85 billion in 2030. The Wall Street Journal reports that in the U.S., retail stores earned over $1 billion in plant-based meat sales in 2019. Meanwhile, another Financial Times report notes that the novel coronavirus has led to plant-based meat sales skyrocketing 200 percent due to supply chain issues and staffing shortages as meatpacking plants shut down.
So, what is Nestlé going to rebrand its burger as? Apparently, the burgers will now be known as ‘Sensational’ in Europe. In America, Nestlé already sells its plant burgers under the ‘Awesome’ moniker. Seriously? While most fake meat burgers are sold under superlative names—Beyond Meat, is another example—it could be that a salty Nestlé is just reaching for an old thesaurus. If you look up ‘incredible’ at Thesaurus.com, ‘impossible’ is actually one of the alternate options.
I don’t know about you, but a Sensational Burger sounds ridiculous. Awesome Burgers also sound like that overeager friend hawking you a dressed-up turd. What’s next? A Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious Burger? The Improbable Burger? A Wallace Shawn-themed Inconceivable! Burger?
Look Nestlé, there’s nothing wrong with a more straightforward burger name. Trader Joe’s named its meatless burgers “Protein Patties” and based on Gizmodo’s taste test—they’re not bad! People will eat your meatless burgers if they’re not horrible or super expensive. In the meantime, put the thesaurus down.