Impossible Foods closes $200M funding round

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Dive Brief:

  • Impossible Foods closed a $200 million funding round, according to a release. With this latest round of money, Impossible Foods has raised $1.5 billion since its founding in 2011.
  • This latest funding round was led by Coatue, a new investor in Impossible Foods that is known for its investments in the tech sector. Other investors in this round include XN, as well as previous investors Mirae Asset Global Investments and Temasek.
  • According to the release, Impossible Foods will use the money to expand R&D, scale up manufacturing, increase its retail presence and availability, and for commercialization and development of plant-based products including Impossible Pork, milk, steak and other foods.

Dive Insight:

Nearly half of Impossible’s total lifetime fundraising has come not only in the last several months but also in the midst of a pandemic that’s put a hold on much business activity. In the last six months, the company has raked in $700 million in funding. In March, the plant-based giant closed a $500 million funding round.

While the pandemic has pressed pause on many companies and industries, Impossible Foods seems to be in fast forward mode. This year alone, the company’s plant-based burgers — which got their start in foodservice and only started to expand to grocery retail last year — have seen its retail footprint grow 60 times. At the beginning of the year, Impossible Burger was only available at about 150 grocery stores in the U.S. Now, the company’s plant-based burgers are at 8,000 retail outlets, the company says. In the last two weeks, Impossible Burger has made its way onto shelves in Publix, Walmart and Trader Joe’s.

In addition to the grocery rollout, since the pandemic hit Impossible Foods has started direct-to-consumer ordering. Its plant-based Impossible Sausage, not yet sold in stores, also became widely available to foodservice businesses across the country.

Considering all of this expansion, it seems like Impossible Foods is a safe haven for investment. Many consumer brands have seen significant sales growth since the pandemic began, but as a category, plant-based meat has been one of the brightest stars. According to Nielsen, year-to-date refrigerated plant-based meat sales until Aug. 1 have been $139.1 million, nearly 2.5 times their sales this time a year ago.

Despite the pandemic — and the recession that is gripping the economy — investors are working to help the innovative companies they support continue to shake up the marketplace. Impossible Foods, which has said the retail explosion of 2020 was planned out long before the pandemic, is showing on a daily basis what it is doing with its funds — as well as trying to point the way forward. 

In the release announcing the funding, Impossible hints at what that might be: a broader launch of Impossible Pork, a new plant-based milk product and plant-based steak. The company has hinted at trying to tackle these challenges next, talking about plans to develop dairy and steak in interviews. But the proclamations in interviews have been just that — big ideas shared with no products or timelines. These plans are now in writing as a part of this release, as well as on Impossible Foods’ website. Its ‘About the Company’ page begins as follows: “Hi. We’re Impossible Foods, and we make meat, dairy and fish from plants.” However, there are still no timelines for launches.

It will be interesting to see how Impossible Foods may continue to disrupt the crowded plant-based milk space. In 2019, plant-based milk made up about 14% of the total milk category, according to an analysis of SPINS data by the Good Food Institute and Plant Based Foods Association. The space is filled with players who have been a part of the category for decades, like Silk, which is owned by Danone, and hot upstarts like Oatly. Considering the category includes alternative milks made from nuts, peas, soy and grains, the biggest question is what Impossible might do to differentiate itself.

As for plant-based steak, that’s something that has not been successfully developed for retail sale in the U.S., though some European companies have developed similar products. Israel company Redefine Meat is working to make a 3D printed plant-based steak, which it plans to start offering at high-end restaurants in its home country, Germany and Switzerland later this year. The long-range plan is to begin offering it at some U.S. restaurants by the end of 2021, which gives Impossible some time to be the first to market here. Impossible Foods has a distinct advantage in the U.S. because the company’s “magic ingredient” soy leghemoglobin — a plant-based substitute for the meat protein heme — is genetically modified, international competitors have nothing like it because of strict government regulations on GMOs. 

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