Food & Beverage

Impossible Foods taps Chobani executive as new CEO, founder Pat Brown steps down

Key Points
  • Impossible Foods founder Pat Brown is stepping down as CEO, and Chobani's departing operating chief, Peter McGuinness, will take the helm of the company.
  • Brown will continue working at the company as chief visionary officer and will report to the board.
  • McGuinness's departure from Chobani comes as the yogurt maker reportedly delayed its initial public offering due to market conditions.
Impossible Foods CEO Pat Brown in 2019
Robyn Beck | AFP | Getty Images

Impossible Foods founder Pat Brown is stepping down as CEO, and Chobani's departing operating chief, Peter McGuinness, will take the helm of the company.

The transition comes after a roller coaster two years for the plant-based meat industry. Impossible and rival Beyond Meat both saw their grocery sales skyrocket in the early days of the pandemic as meat shortages boosted sales and helped to offset slumping restaurant business.

But in recent months, sales in the plant-based meat category have slowed, prompting concerns about long-term growth prospects. Nevertheless, Impossible did report that its fourth-quarter retail revenue soared 85%.

Brown founded Impossible a decade ago with the goal of combatting climate change by reducing meat consumption. Since 2016, it has sold meat substitutes and has expanded its distribution to tens of thousands of retailers across three continents, while introducing food items at global restaurant chains like Starbucks and Burger King.

In a letter published on the company's website, Brown said Impossible's growth has meant that the demands of helming the business have encroached on other tasks, such as leading strategic initiatives, sharing the company's mission and guiding research.

"Given the momentum of our business, our accelerating product pipeline, ongoing international expansion and the magnitude of our mission, the leadership demands of the commercial business will inevitably continue to grow," Brown wrote.

Starting April 4, McGuinness, a food industry veteran, will join the company as CEO and a director. For the past eight years, he's been with yogurt maker Chobani, helping the company expand into oat milk, coffee creamers and other categories.

"The key with Impossible, with all of its great innovation, is to make [its products] more available and more accessible to more people," McGuinness said in an interview.

"The company is in a great spot, by the way — I'm not coming in to fix anything, I'm coming in to try to help the company grow more than it's already grown," he added.

Brown will continue working at Impossible as chief visionary officer and will report to the board. His roles will include leading in such areas as research and technology innovation, strategic initiatives, public advocacy and the company mission. He will also remain a director on the company's board.

"Peter and I will work together to lead Impossible and its long-term strategy, combining our complimentary strengths and experience," Brown wrote in his letter.

McGuinness's departure from Chobani comes as the yogurt maker reportedly delayed its initial public offering due to market conditions. Chobani initially filed to go public in November.

Meanwhile, Reuters reported nearly a year ago that Impossible was weighing going public through a merger with a special purpose acquisition company or an initial public offering. In that time, Beyond's stock has taken a beating, with shares falling 63% since the initial report.

McGuinness said Impossible has "a very strong cash position." It last raised $500 million at a valuation of $9.5 billion in November, according to Pitchbook.

"There's no rush or urgency to go public, not to say that we wouldn't decide to do that down the road," he said.

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Impossible Foods is working on creating plant-based whole muscle meats

Correction: Beyond Meat's shares have fallen 63% since April 2021. That stock move was not clear in an earlier version of this story.