Disruptor 50 2020

49. Impossible Foods

Founder: Pat Brown (CEO)
Launched: 2011
Headquarters: Redwood City, California
 $1.3 billion
Valuation: $2 billion (PitchBook)
Food and beverage, food processing, nutrition
Previous appearances on Disruptor 50 List: 2 (No. 27 in 2019)

George Kavallines

How's this for a company mission statement: Eliminate the need for animals in the food production system by 2035. That's the goal of Impossible Foods, a company that makes meat, dairy and fish products from plants. The company's flagship product — the Impossible Burger — sizzles, smells and cooks just like beef but is made from plants, not derived from cows.

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Impossible Foods has three channels of distribution: restaurants and grocery and other food stores, as well as a direct-to-consumer e-commerce channel, which launched earlier this month. While it saw its restaurant business slow down dramatically because of the pandemic, the company claims its retail business has increased exponentially with so many people sheltering in place over the past several months. Sales from retail are up 20 times since the first quarter, says the company, and it plans to increase its retail footprint more than 50-fold by the end of the year. Meat shortages in the U.S. have also spurred sales.

Starbucks Impossible sausage breakfast sandwich.
Starbucks launches the Impossible Foods Breakfast Sandwich as America's appetite for plant-based meat grows

Added to its mix of offerings are the Impossible Burger 2.0 — a new, improved version that holds together better — and Impossible Pork and Impossible Sausage. Soon the company's products will be found in around 3,000 grocery stores across the U.S., including all Safeway stores in Nevada and northern California, as well as Jewel-Osco stores in the Chicago area and in select stores on the East Coast. The Impossible Whopper and the Impossible Croissan'wich are already available at all Burger Kings across the country.

The Impossible Burger contains no gluten, animal hormones or antibiotics and contains no cholesterol (versus about 70mg for a quarter-pound beef burger). In March the company announced it raised about $500 million in its latest round of funding, bringing its total to $1.3 billion. The money will be used to boost its manufacturing and expand its distribution into more supermarkets both in the U.S. and overseas. Investors include Khosla Ventures, Temasek Holdings and Mirae Asset Global Investments.

A look back at the CNBC Disruptor 50: 8 years, 209 companies