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Impossible Foods CEO:‘Beyond Meat is not our competition', the incumbent animal industry is

Pat Brown, Impossible Foods CEO, joins Yahoo Finance's Alexis Christoforous and Brian Sozzi to discuss the company's plans to double its research and development team in the next 12 months, recent funding efforts, its goal to eliminate animal agriculture, and much more.

Video Transcript

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Impossible Foods is turning the heat on high. So far in 2020, the company raised $700 million and announced plans to double its research and development over the next 12 months. The CEO of Impossible Foods, Pat Brown, is joining us now. Good morning, Pat. Good to have you on the show. I want to get to R&D and some new possible products in a moment, but this was a big week for you, because you debuted your products in about 200 grocery stores in Hong Kong and Singapore. Talk to us about that expansion into Asia, and is China any closer for Impossible Foods?

PAT BROWN: Sure, yeah, and that's a good question about China. We, as you might know, we launched about a year ago in grocery stores in the US, and we've actually increased our presence in grocery stores by almost 100-fold since March in the US. Asia is the world's most important market for our mission, because it consumes more than 40% of all the animal products produced globally, China in particular.

We have been in Singapore and Hong Kong now for more than a year. It's been really great business for us there. Our products have been extremely well received, and yeah, earlier this week, we launched for the first time in grocery stores in Hong Kong and Singapore. Too early to say how it's doing, but I can pretty much guarantee it's doing great.

BRIAN SOZZI: Pat, I'm really fascinated. You're a growth company. We've been following your story pretty much from day one. How are you-- how are you pulling this off? How are you running the company right now as a lot of us, so many of us are working from home, but you still have a business to run.

PAT BROWN: Yeah, well, I think you could say that about probably most businesses in the US and the world. But I spend most of my time working in my son's, my youngest son's, former bedroom, which I have converted into a makeshift office, and I come into our regular workplace maybe a couple of times a week. Most of the business team, the people who aren't engaged in research or manufacturing, are working from home. But the R&D team, we've basically kicked the business people out of the workplace, much as we love them, and turned it onto an R&D operation so we can keep people spaced but still enable them to get the work done that they need to do.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Pat, I just want to follow up on China. I know that you need to pass a regulatory hurdle there to get your products into China proper. What are things looking like, and is there a timeline you can share with us?

PAT BROWN: Well, we can't really share a timeline. It's going as well as we can reasonably expect. It was, you know, it suffered a slight hiccup because of the trade tensions between the US and China earlier in the year. To some extent, as it relates to our business, that's resolving a bit. And we're seeing nothing but progress, but it's a process which we have no control of the timeline.

So I'm reasonably optimistic that sometime next year, maybe even in the first half next year, we'll get the clearance to launch in China. And it's going to be a huge thing for us, and actually for China too, because China's biggest food security problem is that they're completely import dependent for their meat supply, because the production of that meat takes four times as much land as they have. So whereas our process basically could produce all the meat China consumes with less than half of their arable land, so it's a big win for them and a big win for the planet.

BRIAN SOZZI: Pat, How would a change in the White House impact the plant based food movement?

PAT BROWN: You know, it's interesting. A lot of people think that there is somehow a partisan component to it, but actually, you'd be surprised. I'd say it's-- we have our strongest supporters on basically both side sides of the aisle. So I think it's-- and of course, our mission is a global mission, and you know, politics will go one way or the other, but we're relentlessly focused on our 2035 goal of completely replacing the use of animals as a food technology with a technology platform that's not going to destroy our planet.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Pat, you're making a big investment in R&D, bringing on lots of scientists. What's in the pipeline? I'm reading plant based milk, plant based fish, and again, can you offer timelines on that?

PAT BROWN: Well, let me first get to the R&D expansion, because that's the most important thing we're going to be spending the money we recently raised on. We're doubling the size of our R&D operation and the scale, and we are just, as of yesterday, launching a call for the world's best scientists and engineers to join us on the most important scientific and engineering project in human history. And challenge me on that, but it is, and that is to save our planet from environmental catastrophe by inventing and scaling a new technology platform to replace what is by far the most destructive technology in human history, and that's the use of animals to transform plant into meats and fish and dairy foods. And by doing this, we can literally turn back the clock on climate change. We've done the math.

If we could make that industry disappear in this microsecond, by 2040, atmospheric greenhouse gases would be back to where they were in 2012, even if we did nothing else. Even if we kept pumping out the fossil fuels and so forth, we could turn back the clock on climate change. So this is absolutely the most important scientific and engineering project in human history, and that's why we're calling for the best scientists and engineers in the world to join us.

BRIAN SOZZI: Pat, I was thinking back this morning, excuse me, it's been quite the year back and forth between you and Beyond Meat. You do this, they do this. They do this, you do that. It reminds me of a heavyweight prize fight here just trading blows. How often, how much do you watch what Beyond Meat's doing, and do you think there is just ultimately one winner here eventually?

PAT BROWN: Well, first of all, Beyond Meat it is not our competition, and I wish them nothing but success. But the only competition we care about is the incumbent animal based industry. That's 100% what we're focused on, and when you look at where our customers come from, more than 90% of all the customers that have ever bought any of our products are omnivores. They're not people who are buying Beyond Meat or any other plant based products, they are people who would otherwise be buying meat from animals.

And in fact, we have very good data that says that 75% of all our sales, the consumer had our product not been there, they would have bought the animal product, not another plant based product. And that's all that matters to us, because we don't accomplish anything from an environmental standpoint by stealing customers from Beyond Meat, so we wish them well. Keep your customers, Beyond Meat, please, because it's the other 99% of the world's population that we need to go after by making products that outperform meat from animals, not outperform another plant based product.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: You're enjoying incredible growth at Impossible Foods right now. The company is valued at reportedly $4 billion. I'd have to think you're looking at the public markets as an option in the not too distant future, and there are lots of different ways to do it now. SPACs have become very popular. There are direct listings. Have you given any thought to that?

PAT BROWN: Well, we've given, obviously, we've given some thought to going public at some point. Right now, we're in a pretty good position financially. As you've said, we've raised a lot of money, and we already had quite a lot of money in the bank when we did that raise, and that's because, you know, really this is the most important scientific engineering project in human history, and we really have to invest in the research and also in growth. At some point, I think we're going to have to go to the public markets to be able to get the resources we need to continue to invest in that growth and so forth. But right now, we don't have any sense of urgency about it.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: All right, Pat Brown, CEO of Impossible Foods, good to see you.

PAT BROWN: Nice to see you.