Impossible Foods

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Impossible Foods
Private
IndustryFood
Founded2011; 8 years ago (2011)
FounderPatrick O. Brown
HeadquartersRedwood City, California, US
Key people
Dennis Woodside (President)[1]
WebsiteImpossibleFoods.com

Impossible Foods Inc. is a company that develops plant-based substitutes for meat products. Founded in 2011, and headquartered in Redwood City, California,[2] the company's stated aim is to give people the taste and nutritional benefits of meat without supposed negative health and certain environmental impacts associated with livestock products.[3] The company researches animal products at the molecular level, then selects specific proteins and nutrients from plants to recreate the experience and nutrition of specific meat products.[3]

The company's signature product, the Impossible Burger, was launched in July 2016, after years of research and development. The company also makes a plant-based sausage product that started being tested on pizzas sold by Little Caesars restaurants in May 2019.

Company and product history[edit]

In 2009, Stanford biochemistry professor Patrick O. Brown decided to devote an 18-month sabbatical to eliminating intensive animal farming, which he determined at the time to be the world's largest environmental problem.[4] With other academics, Brown co-organized a conference in 2010 in Washington, D.C., to raise awareness.[5] However, the National Research Council workshop "The Role of Animal Agriculture in a Sustainable 21st Century Global Food System" had minimal impact, and Brown decided soon after that the best way to reduce animal agriculture was to offer a competing product on the free market.[4]

An Impossible Burger given out during a promotional event at a food truck in San Francisco in November 2016

Brown started Impossible Foods in 2011.[6] In July 2016, the company launched its first meat analogue product, the Impossible Burger, which is made from material derived from plants.[7] The company says that making it uses 95% less land and 74% less water, and it emits about 87% less greenhouse gas than making a ground beef burger patty from cows.[8] The plant-based burger has more protein, less total fat, no cholesterol, and fewer calories than a similar-sized hamburger patty made with beef.[9] It contains more sodium and more saturated fats than an unseasoned beef patty.[10] The Impossible Burger received Kosher certification in May 2018[11] and Halal certification in December 2018.[12]

On January 7, 2019, Impossible Foods launched a new version of their signature burger, the Impossible Burger 2.0. The company has stated that the new burger is "tastier, juicier and more nutritious – featuring 30% less sodium and 40% less saturated fat than our current recipe and just as much protein as 80/20 ground beef from cows." The new product is also gluten-free, replacing wheat with soy protein.[13]

In 2019, CEO Pat Brown said they are working on "whole cuts of beef", including steak. "If we can make an awesomely delicious world-class steak ... that will be very disruptive not just to the beef industry, but to other sectors of the meat industry."[14]

Technology and FDA approval[edit]

Impossible Foods' scientists discovered that heme is a key factor in how meat behaves.[15] Heme is the molecule that gives blood its red color and helps carry oxygen in living organisms.[16] Heme is abundant in animal muscle tissue and is also found naturally in all living organisms.[17] Plants, particularly nitrogen-fixing plants and legumes, also contain heme.[18] The plant-based heme molecule is identical to the heme molecule found in meat.[19][20]

To produce heme protein from non-animal sources, Impossible Foods selected the leghemoglobin molecule found naturally in the roots of soy plants.[21] To make it in large quantities, the company's scientists genetically engineered a yeast and used a fermentation process very similar to the brewing process used to make some types of beer.[22] In 2014, Impossible Foods declared leghemoglobin is Generally Recognized As Safe after its own testing, which is how the GRAS process works under FDA oversight,[23] and filed updates with the FDA on this issue in 2017 and 2018.[24] The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a "no questions" letter in July 2018, accepting the unanimous conclusion of a panel of food-safety experts that the protein that carries heme is safe to eat.[25] This initial approval was limited to products cooked in restaurants because soy leghemoglobin had needed approval as a new food colorant for uncooked products.[26] An FDA rule change that approves the colorant and allows the sale of Impossible Burgers in grocery stores has taken effect on September 4, 2019.[27]

The company said that its scientists created a chemical library of proteins and fats derived from plants and experimented with them as additional ingredients to mimic the texture of meat.[28] To replicate the fat in hamburgers made from cows, Impossible Foods used flecks of coconut fat, which were mixed with ground textured wheat and potato protein.[29] The potato protein provides a firm exterior when the "meat" is seared.[30] The coconut oil stayed solid until heated, when it melted in a similar manner to beef fat.[31]

Production and availability[edit]

An Impossible Burger at Gott's Roadside in Napa in 2018

Impossible Burger[edit]

In 2016 and 2017, Impossible Foods produced Impossible Burgers in both Redwood City, California, and at Rutgers University in New Jersey.[32] Since the production was in relatively small quantities, the burgers were not available at retail locations.[33] Impossible Foods also worked on plant-based products that emulated chicken, pork, fish, and dairy,[34] but decided to concentrate on creating a substitute for the ground beef in burger patties.[35]

The restaurant Momofuku Nishi in New York, owned by David Chang, began serving the Impossible Burger in July 2016.[36] In October 2016, the Impossible Burger became a standing menu item in selected additional restaurants in California,[37] such as Jardinière and Cockscomb in San Francisco, and Crossroads Kitchen in Los Angeles.[38] The Michelin-starred restaurant Public, operated by Brad Farmerie, began serving the Impossible Burger in January 2017.[39]

In March 2017, Impossible Foods announced it would build its first large-scale plant in Oakland, California to produce 1 million pounds of plant-based burger meat per month.[37] In the first half of 2017, the Impossible Burger debuted on the menu of multi-unit franchises including Bareburger in New York City,[40] Umami Burger in California,[41] Hopdoddy in Texas,[42] and 33 & Melt in Florida.[citation needed] In April 2018, White Castle started serving Impossible Burgers. The partnership with White Castle eventually expanded to include all 377 of its locations.[43]

By July 2018, two years after its debut in New York, the Impossible Burger was available at about 3,000 locations in the United States and Hong Kong.[44] By the end of 2018, 5,000 restaurants across all 50 states included the burger on their menus.[45]

In April 2019, Burger King began test marketing an Impossible Whopper using the patty at locations around St. Louis.[46] Later that month, the company announced plans to roll out Impossible Whoppers nationwide before the end of the year.[47] In August, it was officially made available nationwide.[48]

Other products[edit]

In May 2019, Little Caesars began testing the Impossible Supreme pizza in Florida, New Mexico, and Washington state. The pizza features Impossible Foods’ first plant-based sausage product, which CEO Patrick Brown claimed had involved the development of 50 prototype sausage products before Little Caesars began offering it to the public.[49]

Financing[edit]

Impossible Foods has raised rounds of $75 million and $108 million from investors including Google Ventures, Khosla Ventures, Viking Global Investors, UBS,[50] Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing's Horizons Ventures, and Bill Gates.[51] It was reported that Patrick Brown had turned down an offer of $300 million to buy out Impossible Foods in 2015.[35][52]

In May 2016, an additional $16.5 million was raised from debt financing.[53]

In August 2017, $75 million in additional financing was raised after reaching key objectives,[54] with Bill Gates investing additional money.[55]

In April 2018, an additional $114 million was raised, led by Singapore’s Temasek Holdings and Hong Kong-based Sailing Capital, bringing the total to $372 million.[56]

In May 2019, the company raised $300 million of investment.[57] The total valuation of the company raised to $2 billion.[58]

In total, Impossible Foods has raised $687.5 million over 12 rounds of funding.[59]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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  14. ^ Lamb, Catherine (8 January 2019). "Video: Impossible Foods CEO Pat Brown says They'll Tackle Steak Next". Retrieved 13 January 2019.
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  16. ^ "The majority of oxygen in the body is transported by hemoglobin, which is found inside red blood cells".
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  37. ^ a b Robinson, Melia (2017-03-22). "A startup selling 'bloody' plant-based burgers has a new factory that can make 4 million burgers a month". Business Insider. Retrieved 2017-04-18.
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  53. ^ "Crunchbase". Crunchbase. 2016.
  54. ^ *"Impossible Foods Closes a $75 Million Investment After Achieving Key Milestones".
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External links[edit]

Media related to Impossible Foods at Wikimedia Commons