Carnivores, capitalism is delivering your meat-free future

Impossible Foods, which makes the vegan burger filling for Burger King’s ‘Impossible Whopper’, has raised US$300 million to help it meet demand for its meat substitutes.

The money came from Singapore’s huge government-owned investment fund Temasek Holdings and from Horizons Ventures, the venture capital firm of Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing. The latest financing values Impossible Foods at US$2 billion; previous investors include former Microsoft founder Bill Gates.

This is the second market stamp of approval this month for meat substitute producers, following the successful public offering by Beyond Meat. Beyond shares listed at US$25 and closed trading on Monday 13 May at US$69.50, meaning the market values that company at almost US$4 billion.

Both companies currently make losses and are being valued on their claimed potential for huge future growth. However, the pair face competition from each other and a range of rivals, including Nestlé and another food giant, former Beyond Meat investor Tyson Foods.

Impossible’s soy-based meat substitutes are considered some of the best on the market. The Impossible Foods 2.0 recipe reportedly minimises the two biggest problems with such products – flavour and texture.

Tom’s Guide, a respected reviewer of technology products, called Impossible’s burger “shockingly good”, with its reviewer declaring “the texture was so close to beef that if I hadn’t known what I was eating, I would have happily assumed it was a cow”.

The burgers don’t come cheap: a typical Impossible-filled burger goes for more than $US12, compared with around US$7 for premium beef mince. Impossible expects the price to come down as it ramps up its alt-meat production.

Impossible Foods’ burgers are already at a number of smaller chains and in St Louis Burger Kings, and are scheduled to roll out through US Burger King locations through 2019. Burger King has said it is aiming at an international roll-out late this year as well. It is also used in Asian restaurants.

Impossible is working to add a second production line at its California plant to meet demand, and wants to make the meat substitute available in stores soon.

Plant-based meat and synthetic meat grown from cultures are seen as important technologies for feeding the world’s growing middle class and fighting the erosion of natural habitat. Around 40% of the world’s habitable land is already used for livestock.

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