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Impossible Foods

Impossible Foods

Impossible Foods is a plant-based meat company making meat and dairy products that are made to look and feel like animal products by manufacturing heme, the oxygen binding molecule found in blood, using engineered yeast grown in bioreactors.

Impossible Foods is a plant-based meat company company making meat and dairy analogue products that are made to look and feel like animal products. They have achieved this by incorporating a heme-related molecule known as Leghemoglobin, manufactured by genetically engineered yeast, into their plant-based products. Impossible Foods is headquartered in Redwood City, CA and was founded in 2011 by Stanford neuroscientist Patrick Brown.

Origins and environmental impact

In 2009, Dr. Brown took a sabbatical to focus on thinking about how to improve global food sustainability, and two years later he founded Impossible Foods to begin playing a larger role in global food sustainability.

Beef production releases the most greenhouse gas; nearly 5 times that of pork. Some studies show that people are interested in reducing their meat consumption for health and environmental reasons. However, widespread acceptance has been difficult because the complex structure, texture, and taste of beef is difficult to replicate, and many consumers find soy- and veggie-based meat replacement products unpalatable.

Cognitive neuroscience

According to Impossible Foods, Inc. Director of Research Celeste Holz-Schietinger, the product was born from the question "What makes meat meat?". Simply put, the last decade of research has revealed more about how the brain responds to food cues, meaning that food is not only necessary for survival, but is a cognitive experience. Several studies have demonstrated that there is differential brain activity in response to visual, gustatory, and auditory cues of the eating (and cooking) experience. Consequently, scientists at Impossible Foods have worked to break ground beef down into all its molecular components to understand how to better replicate the cognitive experience of cooking and eating ground beef.

Their studies have led them to understand the that primary molecule that gives beef it's characteristic flavor is heme, which is the iron-carrying component of blood in animals. It's the heme and blood that gives the raw beef the red color, distinct aroma, and turns brown when the meat cooked. They found that they could extract a heme homolog (very similar chemical structure) known as leghemoglobin from the root nodule of soy plants.

To be able to sustainably mass-produce leghemoglobin without avoid having to actually harvest soy plant root nodules, scientists at Impossible Foods developed a genetically modified strain of yeast strain that contains the leghemoglobin gene and can quickly grow via fermentation. They also developed a scalable way to isolate the leghemoglobin, from the yeast with consistent and extremely high purity.

While taste, color, and aroma were one hurdle to clear in the development of a meat substitute, Impossible Foods wanted to incorporate ingredients that would satiate other cognitive responses. In their most recent iteration, they use wheat protein, which has the same fleshy texture of beef, potato protein, which gives the same crust that forms on the outer layer of seared beef, and flakes of coconut oil that melt when the burger is grilled, mimicking beef fat and giving the characteristic "sizzle" of cooking meat.

Scientists with Impossible Foods hope that generating a product that looks and feels like ground beef when raw and gives off the same sensory cues while cooking will trick the brain, thus providing an acceptable, sustainable meat substitute.


The main product of Impossible Foods is the Impossible Burger, a meat analogue made from plant derived materials.

Impossible Food's Interactive Map enables people to locate a restaurant near them that serves the Impossible Burger

Impossible Foods has begun to supply restaurants with their product at locations across the United States and Hong Kong. They began this process in early 2016, distributing their product first to high-end restaurants, then partnering with their first national chain: Fatburger. Impossible Burgers has announced that is has secured a distribution agreement with Burger King, starting with Burger Kings in St. Louis, Missouri.


There are claims that the Impossible Burger has a similar texture to actual beef, while others were impressed with the flavor and aroma. Criticism includes a review that the burger left a lingering bitter aftertaste, another review that said they could taste the coconut flavor in the burger, and a third review said if the burger is well cooked throughout, it gains a distinct wheat flavor that was unpleasant.


August 2020
Impossible Foods raises a $200,000,000 series G round from Coatue Management, Mirae Asset Financial Group, Temasek Holdings and XN.
March 16, 2020
Impossible Foods raises $500 million in series F funding round, which was led by South Korea's Mirae Asset Global Investments.
March 16, 2020
Impossible Foods raises a $500,000,000 series F round from Mirae Asset Venture Investment, Serena Williams, Temasek Holdings, Trevor Noah and William Adams.
January 7, 2020
Plant-based pork launches at 2020 CES
May 13, 2019
$300m Series E

The round was led by Temasek Holdings and Horizon Ventures. The round pushed Impossible Foods' total raised to $750m.

May 13, 2019
Impossible Foods raises a $300,000,000 series E round from Horizons Ventures and Temasek Holdings.
April 2, 2018
Convertible Note

Total Raised: $114,000,000

Lead Investors: Sailing Capital, UBS and Temasek Holdings

Investors: Khosla Ventures, GV, Horizons Ventures, Trinity Capital Investments, Bill Gates, Viking Global Investments, Li Ka-Shing and Innovative Fund

Post-Money Valuation: $800,000,000 as of October 2015

April 2018
Impossible Foods raises a $114,000,000 venture round from Sailing Capital and Temasek Holdings.
August 2017
Impossible Foods raises a $75,000,000 venture round from Bill Gates, Horizons Ventures, Khosla Ventures, Open Philanthropy Project and Temasek Holdings.
July 31, 2017
Convertible Note

Total Raised: $75,000,000

Lead Investor: Temasek Holdings

Investors: Bill Gates, Horizons Ventures and Khosla Ventures

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Funding rounds



Celeste Holz-Schietinger

Director of Research

Chris Gregg

Senior VP:Supply Chain & Manufacturing

David Lipman

Chief Science Officer

Kae Saechin


Marcella Butler

Chief People Officer

Patrick Brown

Founder and CEO

Tara Kriese

Senior VP:Marketing

Further reading


Evaluating Potential Risks of Food Allergy and Toxicity of Soy Leghemoglobin Expressed in Pichia pastoris. - PubMed - NCBI

Jin Y , et al.

Here's how the footprint of the plant-based Impossible Burger compares to beef

Adele Peters


List of US Patents filed for Impossible Foods on Flavor and Aroma

Impossible Foods

Academic paper

Safety Evaluation of Soy Leghemoglobin Protein Preparation Derived From Pichia pastoris, Intended for Use as a Flavor Catalyst in Plant-Based Meat. - PubMed - NCBI

Fraser RZ , et al.

The meatless Impossible Burger bleeds and sears, but wasn’t a crowd pleaser

Beth Mole

US Patent for Affinity reagents for protein purification (Patent # 9,833,768 issued December 5, 2017)

Impossible Foods

Academic paper

US Patent for Expression constructs and methods of genetically engineering methylotrophic yeast (Patent # 9,938,327 issued April 10, 2018)

Impossible Foods

Academic paper

What IF? – Medium

Impossible Foods Blog

Where’s the beef? For Impossible Foods it’s in boosting burger sales and raising hundreds of millions

Jonathan Shieber

Documentaries, videos and podcasts


Heme - The Magic Ingredient in Impossible Burger

September 13, 2017



Impossible Food

Impossible Burger


Anna Cooban
April 16, 2021
Business Insider
Plant-based burger company Impossible Foods said Steve Turner, a former Apple exec, would oversee its global marketing.
Shalini Nagarajan
April 9, 2021
Impossible is weighing options between going public via an IPO or a merger with a SPAC within the next 12 months.
Patrick Greenfield
January 8, 2021
the Guardian
Impossible Foods working on milk and fish substitutes as Patrick Brown pledges to put an end to animal agriculture industry
December 22, 2020
, , , , • Leading environmental startup collaborated throughout the pandemic with social impact groups such as Colin Kaepernick's Know Your Rights Camp, Feeding America, Black Lives Matter of Greater New York, Rethink Food and SodexoMAGIC , , • Impossible Foods plans to expand its unique Social Good program in 2021 to address America's interlocking crises of food insecurity, racial justice and unequal access to nutritious food -- particularly to help youth from kindergarten through high s...
Alex Bitter and Catherine LeClair
December 17, 2020
Business Insider
How 'plant-based' cleaners, energy drinks, and bags of almonds took over grocery stores shelves, and why brands are overusing the label.
Alex Bitter
December 8, 2020
Business Insider
From food science to accounting, here's how much employees at plant-based meat maker Impossible Foods make.
Web Summit
December 4, 2020
/PRNewswire/ -- Founder and CEO of Impossible Foods, Pat Brown, is confident of replacing the use of animals as a food technology by 2035. "It's not enough for...
December 2, 2020
, , , , • Buy Impossible Burger, Give Impossible Burger" campaign launches today and runs throughout the month of December , , • Starting on "Giving Tuesday," Consumers can purchase any ImpossibleTM bundle on its direct-to-consumer site, and Impossible Foods will donate an equivalent amount of ImpossibleTM Burger to food banks across the Bay Area--up to 100,000 burger patties , , • Since the start of the pandemic, Impossible Foods has provided relief to people facing hunger nationwide, a...
August 15, 2020
The Pulse of New York Tech
July 20, 2020
, , , , • Silicon Valley de-throned as center of start-up innovation , , • 3x more likely to have a woman or a person of color as CEO than Fortune 500 companies , , • Sustainability and community powering innovative growth , , , , , , Interbrand - the world's leading brand consultancy - launched its 2020 Breakthrough Brands report, unveiling the 30 brands set to revolutionize their markets. From sleek, high-end digital home gyms ( Mirror ) and alt-meat plant foods ( Impossible Foods ) to b...
JD Alois
July 14, 2020
Crowdfund Insider
Click HERE to find out ⭐ Pre-IPO Shares of Impossible Foods Available at Manhattan Street Capital. | Crowdfund Insider: Global Fintech News, including Crowdfunding, Blockchain and more.
Andrew Marino
March 24, 2020
The Verge
Verge editor-in-chief Nilay Patel talks to Impossible Foods CEO Patrick Brown about Impossible's mission to replace animal-derived meat worldwide and what that would mean for our climate and culture.
Jane Lanhee Lee
March 16, 2020
Plant-based meat company Impossible Foods said on Monday it raised about $500 million in its latest series F funding round, which was led by South Korea's Mirae Asset Global Investments, a new investor.
Tom Polansek
February 24, 2020
Cargill Inc [CARG.UL] will launch plant-based hamburger patties and ground "fake meat" products in April, the company said on Monday, challenging Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods for sales in grocery stores, cafeterias and restaurants.
By Stacy Liberatore For
January 13, 2020
Mail Online
Novameat revealed the 'most realistic' plant-based steak yet made of peas and seaweed. The alternative is created using a 3D printer, producing the look of muscle tissue and fat.
Jonathan Shieber
December 30, 2019
The age of alternative meats is upon us. Beyond Meat is a $5 billion public company selling burgers in Canadian McDonald's and American Carl's Jr., breakfast sausages in Dunkin, and even chicken in a limited trial at KFC. Meanwhile, Impossible Foods has become a runaway hit at Burger Kings around the country. And the company [...]
Pei Li
November 19, 2019
U.S. plant-based "meat" makers targeting China like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat Inc will need to battle homegrown rivals which are developing local favourites such as dumplings and mooncakes to nab a share of the lucrative market.
Pei Li
November 19, 2019
U.S. plant-based "meat" makers targeting China like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat Inc will need to battle homegrown rivals which are developing local favorites such as dumplings and mooncakes to nab a share of the lucrative market.
Carmen Reinicke
October 23, 2019
Beyond Meat falls below $100 per share ahead of earnings after a series of wins for competitors (BYND)
Ben Gilbert
September 29, 2019
Business Insider
After years of hype around the Impossible Burger, the company is finally selling its veggie version of ground beef in supermarkets.


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