Flagship product the Impossible Burger uses a key protein called soy leghaemoglobin, which recently passed several food safety tests with flying colours and won the company a patent to use the ingredient in plant-based meats.
This sparked a flurry of investment activity, with Singapore-based wealth fund Temasek leading the charge. Bill Gates, Khosla Ventures, Horizon Ventures and Open Philanthropy Project – whose main funder is Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz and his wife Cari Tuna – have also invested.
Making meat from plants - the Impossible Foods mission
More investment in the business will help to accelerate its expansion plans, with Impossible Foods working on a new factory in Oakland, California, that can produce 12 million pounds of meat-alternative burgers per year.
Founded in 2011 by ex-Stanford University biochemistry professor Patrick Brown, the business has been exploring how to meet growing meat demand in a way that does not speed up the impact of climate change.
The business has found a way to make the chemical compound heme – something that is abundant in animal muscle and helps give meat that unique flavour – without slaughtering livestock.
By genetically modifying yeast and using fermentation, the business has unlocked a way to produce a heme protein that is naturally found in plants: soy leghaemoglobin.
The compound is resource-efficient too, as it uses 75% less water, generates 87% fewer greenhouse gases and requires 95% less land than beef cattle, according to Impossible Foods. The burger is also produced without growth-enhancers, antibiotics or artificial flavours.
“Our scientists spent so much time and effort studying a single molecule – heme – because heme is what makes meat taste like meat,” explained Impossible Foods CEO and founder Brown.
“It turns out that finding a sustainable way to make massive amounts of heme from plants is a critical step in solving the world’s greatest environmental threat.”