Henry Woodward-Fisher is international launch manager for plant-based food company Impossible Foods based in Singapore. He is currently working from home during the coronavirus pandemic. Image: Henry Woodward-Fisher
Henry Woodward-Fisher works for one of the most fashionable companies in sustainability. Based in Singapore, the Harvard-educated French, Spanish and Mandarin-speaking Briton is international launch manager at Impossible Foods, a company on a seemingly impossible mission: convert meat eaters to plant-based food and remove animals from the human diet by 2035.
Woodward-Fisher’s role is the international expansion of an America-born brand that sees Asia—the largest and fastest-growing market for meat consumption—as its most important region for growth. The company now famous for the Impossible Burger launched in Hong Kong and Macau in 2018 and Singapore in 2019. The ongoing coronavirus pandemic may have put expansion plans on ice for now, but the origins of the virus—non-humans animals—has given people another good reason to switch to meatless meat, and the market prospects for alternative protein are looking good.
Having spent much of his career in the food and beverage business with the likes of Shanghai-based food distributor Sinodis and tea brand Jing Tea, Woodward-Fisher is now two years into his role at Impossible.
F&B businesses have been impacted in so many ways by Covid-19, and many have had to shift their business models dramatically.
Here is how his typical pandemic-time working day goes:
6am: I try to wake up early to give a bit of breathing room before the conference calls start with our California team. I usually meditate for 15 minutes as soon as I’m out of bed to set me up for the day ahead. I’m a tea lover, so I may make a pot of dark roasted oolong or perhaps a grassy longjing. My Covid-cliché is a leap into sourdough starters; however, mine recently turned pink, which I understand is not a good sign! I’m resigning myself to the idea that my bread won’t be coming from home any time soon. Luckily, Singapore has many excellent bakers and I rotate my weekly orders between Singapore restaurants: Nouri, Burnt Ends, and Le Bon Funk.
7am: It’s quite normal to be in back-to-back calls from this time onwards. Impossible Foods runs international teams across the United States, Hong Kong, and Singapore. These regular check-ins with our team are crucial to keep us aligned, particularly when we’re working from home. I’m part of the team that focuses on our international development and future country launches, so one of my first calls is with our in-market and global account management teams, with everyone giving updates on the latest developments.
8am: The Singapore team catches up on local updates and planning. Since launching in Hong Kong in 2018 and Singapore in 2019, we’ve seen exponential growth and an explosion in demand; today, Impossible is served in around 300 restaurants in Singapore and growing. The United Nations predicts that global animal meat consumption will rise by more than 70 per cent in the next few decades, with Asia driving the largest part of this growth. For Impossible Foods, becoming an integral part of the food system and consumer diets in Asia is mission critical.
Today, the topic at hand is our recent Earth Month campaign, where we partnered with restaurants across Singapore and Hong Kong to showcase their creativity, deliciousness, and the environmental impact of their Impossible dishes. We’re about to discuss the overall impact data of our Singapore customers’ total consumption of Impossible meat during Earth Month (spoiler: upgrading to Impossible meat from animal meat has a massive environmental upside, without compromising on taste or nutrition.)
9am: Call with our sales teams in Hong Kong and Singapore. F&B businesses have been impacted in so many ways by Covid-19, and many have had to shift their business models dramatically. Today, we’re looking at a new collaboration with our distribution and restaurant partners to sell our product directly to consumers through their channels. As dine-in services have stopped and more Singaporeans are cooking at home, we’re supporting local restaurants and distributors by giving them new revenue streams.
10am: After back-to-back calls, I take a break. If I’m feeling lazy I might do a live-streamed yin yoga class or, if I’m feeling more energetic, some Vinyasa. Our international team is also reading a couple of books together, so I take the time to finish reading Patagonia founder, Yvon Chouinard’s book Let My People Go Surfing.
12pm: Lunch is a plate of mixed fruit and vegetables, a soup and some homemade hummus. Every Thursday, we have a Singapore team lunch where we get food delivery from one of our restaurant partners and watch the recording of our weekly all-hands meeting from Impossible Foods HQ. Recent lunch delivery highlights include Impossible curry puffs from Tip Top and special edition burgers from Three Buns.
2pm: A good chunk of my afternoon is spent consolidating our planning. While Covid-19 has, of course, caused adjustments to our business, one thing it has given us is more time to plan for the future. Food security amid this public health crisis is top of mind, and we are seeing increasing interest from partners who are keen to join us on our mission to eliminate the need for animals in the global food system while continuing to feed their customers with delicious, nutrient-dense, and safe meat.
A single Impossible quarter pound patty, uses 87 per cent less water, 96 per cent less land, 89 per cent less greenhouse gas emissions, and contributes 92 per cent less to freshwater pollution compared to ground beef from a cow. The resources saved could be used to produce crops for food and reduce greenhouse gases immensely, not to mention the associated public health risks of relying on animals for food.
We are seeing a rapid shift in consumer adoption towards plant-based foods, if they taste good. The size of the animal-based meat market is huge at US$1.5 trillion today and projected to hit $3 trillion within 10 years. Impossible Foods is looking to compete directly with meat, and be available wherever meat from animals is sold. The growth potential of the market is huge, and F&B businesses and food producers are recognising this.
4pm: I make several recruitment calls, as we are looking to expand our international presence. We have a pretty rigorous process which allows us to cast a wide net and we spend a lot of time sourcing and screening applications. Promising candidates speak to a broad range of team members across functions, which gives them the opportunity to learn more about the company and our culture and also ensures alignment that new hires share our values and mission.
6pm: Something useful I’ve learned from my US colleagues is to set an alarm for 6pm as a reminder that the work day is coming to an end. Otherwise it’s really easy for time to run away from me and invade my evening. I like to go for a walk at Fort Canning Park near my place to clear my mind and wind down before dinner.
7pm: I’m pretty food-obsessed and cooking is a great way to de-stress. I plan out my dinners at the start of every week and cook at least three to four times. I eat a largely plant-based diet and it always helps to have Impossible meat on hand. My go-tos are Impossible Bolognese, Thai larb lettuce wraps, or just a classic burger.
9pm: I settle down and unwind in front of the TV, or listen to some music and read. I’m halfway through reading Drawdown by Paul Hawken, which I’m finding very interesting as it sets out very tangible steps for reversing global warming. However, especially with all the things going in the world in 2020, it can make for not very relaxing before-bed reading, so the TV usually wins out!
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