Expanding the possibilities of Impossible Foods

by Monica Watrous
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Impossible Burger
The Impossible Burger is made with plant-based ingredients.
 

REDWOOD CITY, CALIF. — Impossible Foods, a maker of plant-based meat, has closed a $75 million investment led by Singapore-based investment firm Temasek. Other investors include Open Philanthropy Project, Bill Gates, Khosla Ventures and Horizon Ventures.

The company’s Impossible Burger is made with plant-based ingredients, including soy leghemoglobin, a protein that carries the iron-containing molecule heme, which occurs naturally in animals and plants and delivers a beefy flavor without cholesterol, hormones or antibiotics.

Impossible Burger at Bareburger
In July, Bareburger restaurants in New York began to offer the Impossible Burger.
 

Other key ingredients in the Impossible Burger are water, wheat protein, coconut oil and potato protein plus natural flavors and micronutrients. The Impossible Burger uses about 75% less water and 95% less land than conventional ground beef from cows and generates about 87% fewer greenhouse gases. 

In July, the Impossible Burger expanded to more restaurant chains, including Umami Burger restaurants in California and Bareburger restaurants in New York. The plant-based burger also is served at Momofuku Nishi restaurant in New York and Andrea’s at Wynn in Las Vegas. At Bareburger, one in five customers orders the Impossible Burger, according to the company.

Euripides Pelekanos, Bareburger
Euripides Pelekanos, co-founder and c.e.o. of Bareburger

“We’re meeting new customers every day who specifically come to Bareburger for the Impossible Burger,” said Euripides Pelekanos, co-founder and chief executive officer of Bareburger. “Having the Impossible Burger on the menu is good for the planet, our children — and happens to be good for business, too. In the simplest way I can put it, we feel ‘good’ about serving this burger in more of our restaurants.”

Impossible Foods recently received a patent for its technology to use leghemoglobin in plant-based meat and has more than 100 additional patents pending.

Patrick Brown, Impossible Foods
Patrick Brown, M.D., Ph.D., founder and c.e.o. of Impossible Foods

“Our scientists spent so much time and effort studying a single molecule — heme —because heme is what makes meat taste like meat,” said Patrick O. Brown, M.D., Ph.D., founder and chief executive officer. “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.”

Dr. Brown, who founded Impossible Foods in 2011, is formerly a professor of biochemistry at Stanford University.

Impossible Burger at Umami Burger
The Impossible Burger gas expanded to more restaurant chains, including Umami Burger restaurants in California.
 

Soy leghemoglobin achieved GRAS (generally recognized as safe) status from a panel of food safety experts in 2014. The company completed a study last year it plans to present, along with additional data, to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration this month. The study found excessive consumption of soy leghemoglobin produces no adverse effects. Additionally, a comprehensive search of allergen databases revealed a very low risk of allergenicity for the ingredient.

“The No. 1 priority of Impossible Foods is the safety of our customers, and we believe that people want and deserve total transparency about the food they eat,” Dr. Brown said. 
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