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What is Impossible Foods?

Daniella Genovese

It's not meat, but since being founded roughly nine years ago, it has overtaken the fast-growing market for meat alternatives.

The California based startup, Impossible Foods, is grabbing the attention of consumers who are looking for plant-based alternatives to beef, pork and poultry.

Dr. Patrick O. Brown, a biochemistry expert, founded the company in 2011 with hopes of ending the use of animals for food. Rather, the company's mission is to create meat, dairy and fish from plants, Impossible Food's website explains.

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The idea for Impossible Foods struck Brown while he was on sabbatical from his work as an HHMI investigator and a professor at Stanford University School of Medicine.

Brown attended the University of Chicago, where he earned his degrees including a doctorate in biochemistry, before completing his residency in pediatric medicine at Chicago’s Children’s Memorial Hospital.

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In 2016, the Impossible Burger, the company's first product, became a reality and since then it has become a key player in the growing category of vegan "meats."

To replicate the taste of beef, Impossible Foods said it scanned plants for molecules that would mimic a protein in meat that contains iron and makes blood red. It eventually settled on something called soy leghemoglobin, found in the root of soy plants. To make it, Impossible inserts synthetic versions of sections of soy DNA into yeast so the yeast produce soy leghemoglobin during fermentation.

The Impossible Burger is now available at more than 17,000 restaurants in the United States, Singapore, Hong Kong and Macau.

The company’s burgers have been in restaurants since 2016, but it wasn’t until July of 2019 that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave the OK that let Impossible sell its red, uncooked “beef” in grocery stores.

The burger can be found in grocery stores at select markets across the country including at Gelson’s Markets in Southern California, Wegmans in Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Virginia and select locations of Fairway Market in New York City.

The company's mission is to "feed the entire world."

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Major fast-food joints have also latched on to the brand with one of the industries heaviest hitters, Burger King, debuting the plant-based Impossible Whopper last August.

Impossible Foods ran short of burgers in the first half of the year thanks to the buzz from Burger King. After partnering with OSI Group, a food service company, Brown said Impossible Foods produced twice as much of its plant-based meat in the last quarter of 2019 as it sold in all of 2018.

In January, the company unveiled Impossible Pork and Impossible Sausage at the CES gadget show in Las Vegas. Like the burger, Impossible Food’s pork and sausage are made from soy but mimic the taste and texture of ground meat.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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