For-profit

Impossible Foods

Type:

For-Profit Business

Formation:

July 2011

Number of Employees:

550

Location:

Redwood City, California[16]

Impossible Foods is a producer of vegetarian meat substitutes. [1] The firm asserts that “using animals to make meat is a prehistoric and destructive technology” and that it is “making meat from plants so that we never have to use animals again.” [2]

Founded in 2011, the firm’s first large-scale food manufacturing site was based in Oakland, California. [3] The company uses heme, an iron-containing molecule in meats that gives it distinct flavors and aromas; the company asserts that the heme distinguishes its products from other vegetarian meat substitutes. The company found a way to make heme without animals by adding a plant gene to yeast cells and using fermentation to produce a heme protein naturally found in plants, called leghemoglobin. [4]

Overview

The California-based company sells products in the United States, Hong Kong, Macau and Singapore. Beyond the Impossible Burger, the company’s plant-based foods are meant to also taste like beef for tacos, empanadas and meatballs. Its products are available in restaurants, perhaps most notably as the “Impossible Whopper” at Burger King, and in grocery stores. [5]

The company unveiled the “Impossible Pork” at the CES trade show in Las Vegas in January 2020. [6] This is made to be used for spring rolls, stuffed vegetables, dumplings, wontons or sausage links. [7] Impossible Foods also announced it was testing a bacon-tasting vegetarian substitute. [8]

Founder

The company founder and CEO is Patrick O. Brown, a former pediatrician, professor emeritus at the Stanford University School of Medicine, and co-founder of the Public Library of Science (PLoS). Brown is also a member of the United States National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Medicine, as well as a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. [9]

Brown, while on sabbatical in 2009 from Stanford, determined to find a way to make meat, fish and dairy products from plants instead of animals. He brought together a team of scientist to analyze meat at the molecular level in order to understand why meat tastes, smells, and cooks—then determine if there is a way that vegetarian substitute products could do the same. They formally founded the company in 2011 and introduced the Impossible Burger in 2016. [10]

Brown wrote the goal of the company is “completely replacing the use of animals as a food production technology,” which he said he hopes to accomplish “within two decades.” Brown also called animal agriculture “the most important and urgent problem in the world.” [11]

Adoption in Fast Food

In 2018, mini-burger chain White Castle began selling the Impossible Slider in its restaurants. [12] In 2019, Burger King began selling the “Impossible Whopper.” The company is further expanding beyond the Whopper to reach Burger King breakfast sandwiches. [13]

An attempted deal between Impossible Foods and McDonald’s fell through, according to reports in January 2020, because Impossible Foods would not be able to produce enough burgers quickly enough to make the deal work. Beyond Meat, a rival to Impossible Foods in the vegetarian-meat-substitute sector, is selling burgers at certain McDonald’s restaurants in Canada. [14]

In February 2020, a vegan filed a class action lawsuit against Burger King after finding out that the Impossible Whopper he ordered from an Atlanta Burger King was grilled on the same grill as beef burgers. [15]

References

  1. Company Overview. Impossible Foods. Accessed February 8, 2020. https://impossiblefoods.com/company/overview/ ^
  2. “We’re on a Mission.” Impossible Foods. Accessed February 8, 2020. https://impossiblefoods.com/mission/ ^
  3. “We’re on a Mission.” Impossible Foods. Accessed February 8, 2020. https://impossiblefoods.com/mission/ ^
  4. Brown, Pat. “The Mission That Motivates Us.” Medium. January 23, 2018. Accessed February 8, 2020. https://medium.com/impossible-foods/the-mission-that-motivates-us-d4d7de61665 ^
  5. Company Overview. Impossible Foods. Accessed February 8, 2020. https://impossiblefoods.com/company/overview/ ^
  6. Manskar, Noah. “Impossible Food Cut Talks With McDonald’s, Beyond Meat Shares Spike.” New York Post. January 8, 2020. Accessed February 8, 2020. https://nypost.com/2020/01/08/impossible-foods-cuts-talks-with-mcdonalds-beyond-meat-shares-spike/ ^
  7. Company Overview. Impossible Foods. Accessed February 8, 2020. https://impossiblefoods.com/company/overview/ ^
  8. Stabile, Angelica. “Impossible Foods Testing Plant-Based Bacton; Courting Meat Eaters.” Fox Business. January 14, 2020. Accessed February 8, 2020. https://www.foxbusiness.com/lifestyle/impossible-foods-texting-plant-based-bacon-targeting-meat-eaters ^
  9. Brown, Pat. “The Mission That Motivates Us.” Medium. January 23, 2018. Accessed February 8, 2020. https://medium.com/impossible-foods/the-mission-that-motivates-us-d4d7de61665 ^
  10. Company Overview. Impossible Foods. Accessed February 8, 2020. https://impossiblefoods.com/company/overview/ ^
  11. Brown, Pat. “The Mission That Motivates Us.” Medium. January 23, 2018. Accessed February 8, 2020. https://medium.com/impossible-foods/the-mission-that-motivates-us-d4d7de61665 ^
  12. Impact Report 2019. Impossible Foods. Accessed February 8, 2020. https://impossiblefoods.com/mission/2019impact/ ^
  13. Manskar, Noah. “Impossible Food Cut Talks With McDonald’s, Beyond Meat Shares Spike.” New York Post. January 8, 2020. Accessed February 8, 2020. https://nypost.com/2020/01/08/impossible-foods-cuts-talks-with-mcdonalds-beyond-meat-shares-spike/ ^
  14. Manskar, Noah. “Impossible Food Cut Talks With McDonald’s, Beyond Meat Shares Spike.” New York Post. January 8, 2020. Accessed February 8, 2020. https://nypost.com/2020/01/08/impossible-foods-cuts-talks-with-mcdonalds-beyond-meat-shares-spike/ ^
  15. Reuters. “Burger King Says It Never Promised Impossible Whoppers Were Vegan.” The New York Times. February 3, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2020/02/03/business/31reuters-rstrnt-brnd-burger-king-impossible-whopper-lawsuit.html ^
  16. Company Overview. Impossible Foods. Accessed February 8, 2020. https://impossiblefoods.com/company/overview/
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