What is Impossible Foods? Why Joey Chestnut is banned from hot dog eating contest due to contract with company

Joey Chestnut has been impossible to beat in the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest since Matt Stonie upset him at the event in 2015.

But ahead of the 2024 hot dog eating contest, Chestnut’s association with “Impossible” is carrying a whole new meaning. And it will keep the 16-time hot dog contest winner from participating in the event for the first time in nearly two decades.

Chestnut agreed to a sponsorship deal with Impossible Foods to promote the company’s new vegan hot dog ahead of the summer of 2024. That has put competitive eating’s top dog in hot water, as Nathan’s and Major League Eating reportedly were not happy with Chestnut promoting a rival brand.

That sponsorship deal will keep Chestnut out of action on the Fourth of July, much to his dismay. An 11th-hour deal could be reached to allow his participation, but it appears that Impossible Foods will put an end to his second eight-year run atop the sport.

Here’s what to know about Impossible Foods, Chestnut’s deal with it and why he may be sidelined for MLE’s marquee competition in 2024.

MORE: Latest news, updates about Joey Chestnut’s ban from 2024 hot dog eating contest

What is Impossible Foods?

Impossible Foods is a sustainable food company focused on “eliminating the need to make food from animals,” according to the company’s website.

Impossible Foods’ goal is to “make the global food system truly sustainable” by creating meat alternatives that are derived from plants.

Why?

“Animal agriculture uses a tremendous amount of the world’s natural resources,” the company writes.

Impossible Foods launched its first product — the Impossible Burger Made From Plants — in 2016. Since then, it has made a foray into other forms of beef, pork, sausage and chicken alternatives, all of which are plant and protein-based.

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The company estimated in 2022 that it had created 91 percent less emissions, used 96 percent less land and used 92 percent less water to create Impossible beef than it took to create animal beef. It wasn’t quite as effective with chicken and pork but still saw dramatic differences in resource usage.

MORE: Revisiting Matt Stonie’s upset of Joey Chestnut in 2015

Why is Joey Chestnut banned from hot dog eating contest?

Joey Chestnut is banned from the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest because of his new sponsorship agreement with Impossible Foods.

Impossible Foods recently signed Chestnut to a contract to promote their products. The sustainable food company recently created and released an Impossible hot dog, so bringing Chestnut aboard to market the product was a sensible move.

However, that created an issue with the hot dog eating contest, as Nathan’s and Major League Eating wouldn’t allow Chestnut to promote a rival brand and participate in the event.

“Major League Eating and Nathan’s went to great lengths to accommodate Joey and his management team, agreeing to the appearance fee and allowing Joey to compete in a rival, unbranded hot dog eating contest on Labor Day,” MLE said in a statement. The two parties also stated they are “devastated” Chestnut decided to “represent a rival brand” instead of Nathan’s.

Even so, MLE is holding out hope that they can reach an agreement with Chestnut to have him eat during the July 4 contest. That’s why they are reluctant to call the dispute a ban.

“There is no ban,” MLE’s Richard Shea said. “Major League Eating wants him there. The fans want him there. Nathan’s wants him there.”

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While that may be the case, they won’t be able to have Chestnut there without striking a contract with the 16-time champion. The parties don’t currently have one in place, as Chestnut revealed on X (formerly Twitter).

“To set the record straight, I do not have a contract with MLE or Nathans and they are looking to change the rules from past years as it relates to other partners I can work with,” Chestnut said. “This is apparently the basis on which I’m being banned.”

As such, it seems like Chestnut’s deal with Impossible Foods will keep him out of the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest, barring a last-minute contract capitulation from either party.

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Is Joey Chestnut a vegan?

Impossible Foods may create vegan products, but Joey Chestnut is not a vegan. He still eats meat and was planning to down dozens of Nathan’s hot dogs at the hot dog eating contest, as has been his tradition since 2005.

In case you need proof, here’s a close-up look at him scarfing down chicken wings at the 2023 U.S. wing-eating championship in Buffalo back in September.

Joey Chestnut

(Getty Images)

And more recently, Chestnut mowed down 14 pounds of bologna in eight minutes in May at The Ultimate Bologna Showdown in Knoxville, Tenn.

So, rest assured that if given the opportunity to chomp down on 60-plus Nathan’s hot dogs on the Fourth of July, he’d still jump at it.

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Joey Chestnut contract details

Full details of Chestnut’s contract with Impossible Foods remain unknown, but Major League Eating offered him a four-year, $1.2 million contract to continue participating in the Nathan’s contest, per the New York Post.

Chestnut was previously paid $200,000 for his appearance at the 2023 hot dog eating contest, so his new deal with MLE would constitute a significant raise.

That said, it isn’t clear whether the MLE contract was for just the Nathan’s contest or if it had any other stipulations in it.

Either way, Chestnut is turning down a hefty payday to stump for Impossible Foods. That probably means his deal from the vegan food company is comparable or better than what MLE provided him; and more likely, it’s the latter. 

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