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What 2020 taught Impossible Foods' Rachel Konrad: 'Normal' is now

2020 has been an education for all of us. So as we approach the end of a year like no other, we're asking media and marketing luminaries to share with us their biggest work lessons of the last 12 months. Today, Rachel Konrad, chief communications officer at Impossible Foods, opens up on 'muddling' through an atrocious year.

2020 started at CES, where Impossible Foods launched Impossible Pork Made from Plants and Impossible Sausage Made from Plants. People loved them.

Back in our hotel rooms, we got the first news alerts of pneumonia in China.

None of us could predict the horrors to come. With 2020 in hindsight, here are three lessons learned:

“Normal” is now

Silicon Valley was on hyper alert: By March 6, Impossible Foods had formed a task force and began planning strict social distancing and safety protocols at our plant, lab and test kitchen.

Meanwhile, slaughterhouses became Covid hotspots, provoking the first meat shortages since World War II. Grocery stores reached out: how quickly could they get Impossible Burger? In March, our flagship product was available in fewer than 150 grocery stores. Within six months, Impossible Burger was in more than 15,000 stores, displacing animal-derived meat at an astonishing clip.

Based on data from retailers, at least 75% of people who try Impossible become repeat customers. There’s no reason to believe that they’ll revert post-pandemic: “Normal” is right now.

The status quo is a dangerous illusion

Using animals to make meat is ruining our planet. It’s a colossal contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions, generating four times more GHGs than Exxon, Shell, BP and Chevron combined.

More than 45% of Earth’s land is devoted to grazing or growing feed crops for livestock, a leading contributor to fires and deforestation. Animal agriculture’s vast land footprint has wiped out two-thirds of wildlife biomass in 50 years.

Livestock causes chronic disease and antibiotic resistance. Reliance on wild and farmed animal-derived foods is responsible for three-quarters of infectious diseases – including the 1918 “Spanish flu” (from Kansas animal farms), HIV/AIDS, SARS, MERS and the majority of deaths from pandemic flu. Covid reiterated animal agriculture’s lethality – for livestock and humans.

We’ve been eating animals for 10,000 years –but it’s no status quo: It’s accelerating our demise. It’s time to course-correct – before the extinction crisis extinguishes homo sapiens.

Community is key

2020 tested everyone – including our workforce.

Telecommuting eliminated lunch buffets and “water cooler chats” for brainstorming and bonding. We tried to compensate with Zoom; we hosted more than 125 team building sessions, including a workout series and a session for frazzled parents. We launched Instagram Live “Grillside Chats” for internal and external guests.

That wasn’t enough amid racial injustice, economic collapse and choking wildfires. Impossible’s employee resource groups (ERGs) stepped up, boosting morale and unifying teams. Throughout 2020, ERGs founded a mentorship program, improved fertility assistance benefits for all employees, made recruiting more inclusive, and hosted anti-racist seminars. Our Social Good team donated 1m meals to combat food insecurity.

Together, we muddled through an atrocious year. 2020 had no “silver lining.” It was nothing we anticipated – and nothing we hope to repeat.

Sure, we may be smarter for lessons learned – but we’re unspeakably sadder for lives lost.

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