Impossible Foods thinks veggie burgers are a great alternative to real burgers, but there’s no way a real meat lover could ever be fooled by the products currently on the market. With that in mind, the Redwood City, CA-based company has promised to deliver a cheeseburger made entirely from plants, and investors like Bill Gates have backed them to the tune of $108 million.
Impossible Foods was founded four years ago by Patrick Brown, a former professor of biochemistry at Stanford. Brown is also the co-founder of another plant-based food company, Kite Hill, that has already developed dairy alternatives made from nuts, including milk-replacements and non-dairy cheeses.
With Impossible Foods, Brown’s goal is much loftier: to create meat alternatives that are entirely made from plant products and indistinguishable from the real thing.
Unlike other meat-alternative startups like Modern Meadow that grow animals’ cells in a lab, the Wall Street Journal reports that Impossible Foods uses only plants to create their meat substitutes.
Both methods are intended to feed the appetites of meat lovers in a more sustainable manner, as growing meat in labs and making meat-like products from plants are both less resource-intensive than the old fashioned method of raising and slaughtering animals.
The difference between outfits like Modern Meadow and Impossible Foods is that Impossible Foods uses no animal products, not even cellular matter, which means that the “Impossible Cheeseburger,” if and when it actually arrives, will be a truly vegetarian meal, even if it looks, smells and tastes like the real thing.
According to Impossible Foods, their process starts with regular plants, breaks them down into component parts, and then uses the individual building blocks to simulate familiar foods.
“We start with plants – such as grains, greens and beans – and separate proteins, fats, and other nutrients from each one, selecting those that give our foods desirable flavors and textures. We then combine these proteins with vitamins, amino acids, and fats, all from plants, to make our meats and cheeses.”
That may sound impossible, but some very smart, very rich people have shown an interest in Impossible Foods since its inception four years ago.
According to Business Insider, Google tried to buy Impossible Foods last summer for somewhere between $200 and $300 million, but the two companies were unable to agree on a figure.
At that time, Impossible Foods had already secured an initial round of funding from investors like Bill Gates and Google’s Tony Fadell.
In another round that just closed, Impossible Foods was able to secure a whopping $108 million in funding. According to the Wall Street Journal, the Series D round was led by UBS also included Bill Gates, Hong Kong business magnate Li Ka-Shing, Viking Global Investors, and others.
Li Ka-Shing’s Horizon Ventures was an early investor with Bill Gates and has also put money into Modern Meadow, according to the Wall Street Journal.
A representative of Horizon Ventures suggested that the market for companies like Impossible Foods and Modern Meadow could explode in the future.
“Both companies are trying to bring great food to the world’s table through technology that is much more environmentally friendly and effective in terms of ‘real cost’ to the world,” Horizons Ventures’s Solina Chau told the Wall Street Journal. “If the global population projection of 9.6 billion mouths to feed by 2050 is on the mark, the market will definitely be big enough to embrace the products of Impossible Foods and Modern Meadow.”
The idea of a vegetarian cheeseburger that looks and tastes real is certainly intriguing, but it does sound a little impossible. Would you eat Impossible Foods’ Impossible Cheeseburger when it comes out next year, or would you rather just stick to the real thing?
[Image credit: Impossible Foods, Spencer Plat/Getty Images News, Justin Sullivan/Getty Images News]