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Featured Innovator: Impossible Foods

Updated: Apr 30, 2021

The alternative protein market is making waves in the food innovation revolution and Impossible Foods is a leader in the space. Patrick Brown, founder and CEO was a pioneer in gene mapping and is a passionate individual seeking to eliminate the meat industry.

“This is why I think people are increasingly aware plant-based products are going to completely replace the animal-based products in the food world within the next 15 years. That’s our mission. That transformation is inevitable.” — Patrick Brown.

Impossible Foods uses leghemoglobin, the root nodule of leguminous plants like soy to combine with their meat alternative to achieve the best possible flavour. However, over time, efforts to fill consumer demand also meant increased soil erosion releasing stored carbon. They needed a new approach.

“Every living plant or animal cell contains heme. From a food standpoint, what matters is that heme catalyses very specific types of chemical reactions that transform abundant, simple nutrients into this explosion of hundreds of diverse volatile odorant molecules. When you experience them together, they add up unmistakably to the smell and taste of meat.”

A version of heme, a byproduct capitalising on the benefits of fermentation. The Impossible Food’s team genetically engineers yeast using their original leghemoglobin followed by combining it with their products' meat to allow it to connect with other micronutrients creating a delicious and nutritious product. This process has allowed Impossible Foods to continue to scale and work towards ambitions of feeding the planet, with the lowest possible environmental impact.

The use of GMO has copped public criticism. Following FDA approval of the heme source in response to IF’s detailed scientific research to conclude the safety of the approach, many Non-GMO activists argued that the FDA should not allow companies to self-report their research.

The challenge was to change consumer perception for their IF’s future success. 2018 Pew Research Center found that 49% of consumers say foods with GMO ingredients are unhealthier than GMO-free foods — up from 39% in the centre’s 2016 survey (Pew).

Regardless of these challenges, Impossible Foods continues to grow in sales and success. Standing by their decision to use gene editing to produce their products, flavour maker, heme.

“The whole reason the company exists and the reason we have so many amazingly great scientists working here is that we are working on the most important and urgent problem in the world right now. Arguably, the most important and urgent problems our species has ever faced are the catastrophic meltdown in biodiversity and the relentless progression of climate change, both of which the use of animals in the food system is a major player.”

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