|Founder||Patrick O. Brown|
|Headquarters||Redwood City, California, US|
Impossible Foods Inc. is a company that develops plant-based meat and dairy products made without animals. Headquartered in Redwood City, California, the company aims to give people the taste and nutritional benefits of meat without the negative health and environmental impacts of livestock products. The company researches animal products at the molecular level, then selects specific proteins and nutrients from plants to recreate the experience of meats and dairy products from animals.
In 2009, Stanford biochemistry professor Patrick O. Brown decided to devote an 18-month sabbatical to eliminating industrial animal agriculture, which he determined at the time to be the world’s largest environmental problem. With other academics, Brown co-organized a conference in 2010 in Washington to raise awareness. But the National Research Council workshop, called "The Role of Animal Agriculture in a Sustainable 21st Century Global Food System,” had minimal impact; soon after, he decided the best way to reduce animal agriculture was to offer a competing product in the free market. He started the company in 2011.
In July 2016, Impossible Foods launched its meat analogue product, the Impossible Burger, which is made from material derived from plants. 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 burger from cows. The plant-based burger has more protein, less total fat, no cholesterol and fewer calories than a similar-sized hamburger patty made with beef. It contains more sodium and more saturated fats than unseasoned beef patty.
The restaurant Momofuku Nishi in New York, owned by David Chang, began serving the Impossible Burger in July 2016. In October, the Impossible Burger became a standing menu item in selected additional restaurants in California such as Jardinière and Cockscomb in San Francisco, and Crossroads Kitchen in Los Angeles. The Michelin-starred restaurant PUBLIC, operated by Brad Farmerie, began serving the Impossible Burger in January 2017.
In 2016 and 2017, Impossible Foods produced Impossible Burgers in relatively small quantities in Redwood City, California and at Rutgers, New Jersey and were not available in retail locations. Impossible Foods also worked on plant-based products that emulate chicken, pork, fish and dairy but initially decided to concentrate on ground beef used in burgers.
In March 2017, Impossible Foods announced it would build its first large-scale plant in Oakland, California to produce one million pounds of plant based burger meat a month. In the first half of 2017, the Impossible Burger debuted on the menu of multi-unit franchises including Bareburger in New York City, Umami Burger in California and Hopdoddy in Texas.
White Castle started serving Impossible Burgers in 2018.
Impossible Foods' scientists discovered that a molecule called heme is a key factor in how meat behaves. Heme is the molecule that gives blood its red color and helps carry oxygen in living organisms. Heme is abundant in animal muscle but is found naturally in all living organisms. Plants, particularly nitrogen-fixing plants and legumes, also contain heme. The heme molecule in plant-based heme is identical to the heme molecule found in meat.
To produce heme protein from non-animal sources, Impossible Foods selected the leghemoglobin found naturally in the roots of soy plants. To make plant-based heme in large quantities, Impossible Foods' scientists then genetically engineered a yeast and used a fermentation process very similar to the brewing process used to make some types of beer.
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. To replicate the fat in hamburgers made from cows, Impossible Foods' plant-based burger used flecks of coconut fat, which were mixed with ground textured wheat and potato protein. The potato protein provided a firm exterior when the meat is seared. The coconut oil stayed solid until heated, when it melted similarly to beef fat.
Impossible Foods has raised rounds of $75 million and $108 million from investors including Google Ventures, Khosla Ventures, Viking Global Investors, UBS, Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing's Horizons Ventures and Bill Gates. It was reported that Brown had turned down an offer of $300 million to buy out Impossible Foods in 2015.
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 nearly $400 million.
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