"We know enough now to make the gamut of meat flavors": Impossible Foods CEO on synthetic steaks and a future beyond burgers
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- Pat Brown is the founder and CEO of Impossible Foods, valued at $2 billion and best known for its popular Impossible Burger.
- Brown is a chemist and passionate environmentalist. He said his company has the capability to produce meat alternatives to products like steaks and pork chops, and will get there once it meets demand for its version of ground beef.
- This article is part of Business Insider's ongoing series on Better Capitalism.
- Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
The Impossible Burger is at the forefront of the meat-alternative craze.
The plant-based patty that looks and tastes like beef is in more than 7,000 restaurants worldwide and is slated to be in every Burger King location in America by the end of the year. Its parent company, Impossible Foods, just raised $300 million at a $2 billion valuation.
It's all part of a grand vision that Impossible Foods founder and CEO Pat Brown had when he started the company in 2011. Brown, a chemist and environmentalist, set out to get people to eat less meat without sacrificing taste or nutrition - and all for the sake of slowing down climate change. Brown decided to have the first product be a plant-based ground beef, recognizing cattle has the largest negative impact on the environment. "But it wasn't because it was the only thing we could make - it was because it was the most strategic thing we could launch with," Brown told Business Insider.
"We know enough now to make pretty much the gamut of meat flavors. The fundamental biochemistry is very similar, so once you crack the code, as we have, any of those other things would be essentially as easy."
The next product coming from Impossible Foods will be a plant-based version of a pork sausage, but Impossible is going where vegetarian foods haven't gone before.
"We're also working at developing the scalability to produce whole cuts," Brown said. "Steak and pork chops and stuff like that." Engadget reported that Impossible is also developing an egg alternative.
As Brown put it, his researchers have the ability to make shockingly authentic meat alternatives well beyond ground beef - the challenge is just growing to mass production. Before the world gets those next-level vegetarian steaks, for example, Impossible needs to grow to meet the demand of its existing Impossible Burger customers, from small businesses to Burger King. The plan is to bring Impossible products into some grocery stores, where they'll exist alongside products from (friendly) rivals Beyond Meat, by the end of the year. They'll also push more aggressively in that space in 2020.
It's why Impossible Foods is building a new production plant and growing its team.
"Why am I motivated? Because this is the biggest, most urgent problem that our planet and our species faces, and arguably the most urgent problem we've ever faced," Brown told us.
"We know the culprit. But we're not going to solve the problem by declaring war on the incumbent industry or telling people to change their diets. The only way to do it is by making products that do a better job of delivering what consumers value from meat and these other foods."