Today, food tech startup Impossible Foods published its 2018 impact report, an annual update on its mission, business and strategic roadmap.
As a key player in the growing global movement to embrace plant-based proteins, alongside companies such as Max Burgers in Europe and Hong Kong’s Right Treat, Impossible Foods quickly amassed popularity and venture capital in the past few years by making meat directly from plants — with a much smaller environmental footprint than meat from animals — as part of its mission to create wholesome and nutritious food, restore natural ecosystems and feed a growing population sustainably.
Along with its impact report, Impossible Foods has also released a short film called “The Return,” which follows an astronaut as he returns to Earth and rediscovers beauty in every living thing he encounters.
From white glove to White Castle
The Impossible Burger is now available in more than 3,000 locations in the US, Hong Kong and Macao — up from only 40 restaurants one year ago. Americans alone have eaten roughly 6 million Impossible Burgers since July 2016, when the product debuted at Chef David Chang’s trendsetting Momofuku Nishi in New York City.
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The Impossible Burger is now served in a wide range of restaurants — from taquerias and food trucks to fine-dining establishments and some of the US’ most beloved “better burger” concepts, including Fatburger, Umami Burger, Hopdoddy, The Counter and Chef Michael Symon’s B Spot — with chefs creating menu items such as Impossible tacos, pizza, empanadas, Cantonese baos, noodle dishes, kefta, meatballs, nachos, omelettes, breakfast sandwiches and other fare from the versatile “meat.” In April, America’s original fast-food restaurant, White Castle, added the Impossible Slider to menus in 140 restaurants nationwide. More fast-food restaurants and casual chains will begin serving the Impossible Burger later this year.
To meet this skyrocketing demand, Impossible Foods is hiring a second shift of employees to double production at its first large-scale factory, in Oakland, California.
CEO and founder Dr. Patrick Brown asserts that Impossible Foods is on track to eliminate the need for animals as a food production technology by 2035.
“Until today, the only technology we’ve known that can turn plants into meat has been animals — but cows, pigs, chicken and fish are terribly inefficient at turning plants into meat. We now know how to make meat better — by making it directly from plants,” Brown said. “In eliminating the need for animals in the food system, we will return massive tracts of land to biodiversity, reduce food insecurity and global conflicts, and let the Earth heal itself. Eliminating the need for animals in the food system is the easiest path to preserve our planet — without compromising quality of life.”
Heme: The awesome molecule you eat every single day
The key ingredient to making meat sustainably is heme — one of nature’s most ubiquitous molecules. It is best known as the molecule that carries oxygen in your blood.
Heme is in virtually all of our food, particularly abundant in animal muscle. It’s the abundance of heme that makes meat (both from animals and Impossible Foods’ meat from plants) uniquely delicious. Heme is totally safe to eat; in fact, it’s required for life.
To satisfy the global demand for meat at a fraction of the environmental impact, Impossible Foods developed a far more sustainable, scalable and affordable way to make heme — and therefore meat — without the catastrophic environmental impact of livestock. The company genetically engineers and ferments yeast to produce a heme protein naturally found in plants, called soy leghemoglobin.
The heme in the Impossible Burger is identical to the essential heme humans have been consuming for hundreds of thousands of years in meat — and while the Impossible Burger delivers all of the depth of flavor of beef, it uses far fewer resources: Producing the Impossible Burger uses about 75 percent less water, generates about 87 percent less greenhouse gases and requires roughly 95 percent less land than conventional ground beef.
The 2018 sustainability report, ***Mission: Earth***, candidly charts Impossible Foods’ progress — and its biggest challenges — in the pursuit of its 2035 vision.
To generate the data in the 2018 sustainability report, Impossible Foods partnered with researchers at the Technical University of Denmark to understand the impacts of Impossible Foods’ product at a national scale. The report also includes data verified by third-party life cycle analysis firm Quantis.
Independent academics and experts found that if US diners replace 50 percent of conventional ground beef with Impossible Foods’ plant-based beef — halfway to the company’s 2035 goal — we would:
- Spare the atmosphere as many as 45 million metric tons of carbon — the equivalent of removing the emissions of up to 11 million US drivers for a full year
- Save 3.2 trillion gallons of water — the equivalent of the amount of water used by up to 90 million Americans in one year
- Release as many as 190,000 square kilometers of land now being used for livestock and the crops they consume — a land area the size of New England, which could be restored to healthy wildlife habitat, reducing atmospheric carbon in the process.
Impossible Foods’ 2018 report also provides details about the company’s growing efforts to contribute to communities where it does business. The startup launched partnerships this year with some of the country’s largest food banks, which serve those affected by food insecurity in Impossible’s headquarters in the San Francisco Bay Area, and is committed to expanding its programs to additional food banks nationwide.
Learn more by reading the 2018 sustainability report, or get technical details on the impacts of Impossible Foods’ plant-based meat in this 2018 paper published on the Public Library of Science.