Impossible Foods – Developing plant-based alternatives for meat products

by Precious Cyprain
4 mins read
Impossible Foods

Do you know there are meat, dairy and poultry food products made using plant materials instead of animals? Keep reading to learn about the startup company that made this invention, how it is done and why.  

These foods are made using plant-based alternatives for meat and have grown extensively over the past 12 years due to consumers’ demand for food that is free of beef, poultry or pork. Impossible Foods was initially founded to help admonish the use of animals for food, with the targeted consumers being the “hardcore meat lovers”. 

Impossible Foods is a food company whose main focus is developing plant-based substitutes for all dairy, meat and fish products. The startup company was founded by Patrick Brown in the year 2011, with its headquarters in Redwood City, California. After Patrick Brown’s effort to create an awareness of how using animals for food caused harm to the environment was futile, he then developed a business that made plant-based alternatives for these animal foods.  

Impossible Foods products aim to perfectly imitate the taste of meat while keeping animals and the environment safe. Due to human’s inability to let go of the consumption of animal products even after the provision of plant-based alternatives, its mission became to provide fish, dairy and meat from plants which are more sustainable to encourage the displacement of the high market demand for meat products.  

Impossible Burger – The first product 

Impossible Foods created its first product, Impossible Burger, in July 2016. The Impossible Burger was intended to ultimately replicate the taste, feel and aroma of beef. To achieve this, it researched plants for molecules that contain iron and make blood red just like the protein in meat. 

This molecule is known as heme. Heme is the molecule in the blood of living organisms that transports oxygen and also gives the blood its red colour. Heme occurs naturally in all living organisms but can be found abundantly in the muscle tissues of animals. Legumes and Nitrogen fixing plants also contain heme which is very similar to the heme occurring in animals.  

During this research, soy leghemoglobin was found in the root of soy plants which replaced the use of wheat protein since 2019 and is also gluten-free. This soy leghemoglobin or heme is what makes Impossible Burger different from other plant-based meat burgers by giving it the colour and taste of a regular beef hamburger, also making it have the ‘red bleed’ when it is cut.  

To make a heme that replicates these beef qualities, Impossible adds sections of soy protein DNA into genetically engineered yeast, which produces soy leghemoglobin in large quantities during the yeast fermentation. This process is identical to the brewing process used in the production of certain kinds of beer. 

Other Ingredients used in making the plant-based Impossible Burger include; methylcellulose, soy protein concentrate, sunflower oil, natural flavours, yeast extract, cultured dextrose, coconut oil, modified food starch, salt, soy protein isolate, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, and so on.  

Its partnership with Burger King for the Impossible Whoopers contributed to its successful nationwide release across the United States in 2019. Since then, Impossible Foods has offered other plant-based products like plant-based nuggets, patties, ground sausage, pork, meatballs, fish and dairy. Its products have also spread across more than 17,000 restaurants, grocery stores and fast-food businesses in countries like Singapore, the United States, Macau, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, etc.  

burger king impossible whopper - impossible foods

Pros of the Impossible Burger 

  • Production demands less land and less water 
  • It serves as a sustainable substitute for beef burgers 
  • It is gluten-free, has no cholesterol and is vegan-friendly. 
  • Its production emits less greenhouse gases than that of burger patties from cows. 
  • It has less total fat and more protein 
  • It is made up of various important nutrients like Vitamin B1, B2, B6 and B12.  
  • It has less food energy and is versatile 
  • It is easy to prepare 

Cons of the Impossible Foods Burger 

  • It contains more sodium than a regular beef patty 
  • Impossible Burger consists of some food allergens, like soy.  
  • Research available to ascertain the long-term safety of soy leghemoglobin is still limited. 
  • It contains more saturated fats than regular beef patties.  
  • The main ingredients used in making Impossible Burger are genetically modified

Watch how Impossible Foods created its meatless burger below;

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