Impossible Foods: The Future of Sustainable FoodTech

Impossible Foods Talks New Developments, Consumer Responsibility & COVID-19.

Global patterns of meat consumption continue to increase at alarming rates. The result of rampant population growth, an expanding middle-class, and greater production efficiency, average annual meat consumption now reaches well over 42kg (2011), amounting globally to 64 billion animals slaughtered every year

Although its ethical implications are vast in term of animal cruelty, the international livestock industry’s most detrimental impact is undoubtedly on the environment. The FAO recently estimated that livestock and poultry account for a staggering 14.5% of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, demonstrating the unsustainable nature of current consumption levels, and a critical need for change. 

This is a change consumers and corporation alike are beginning to make, marked by the incredible uptake of emerging plant-based consumption trends. A form of ‘alternative’, ‘ethical’ lifestyle consumerism, these increases have primarily been seen in modern, Western society, with Finder reporting that in the UK alone 7% of the population follow meat-free diets, while a further 4% pescatarian, and 2% vegan. 

Driving and reinforcing these trends, corporations such as Impossible Foods are using new technologies to create meat substitute products, with their Impossible Burger sitting centre stage. 

In an interview with CleanTech News, VP of Communications Jessica Appelgren tells us more. 

Aims & Motivations

Impossible Foods is on a mission to save the planet by reducing global meat consumption. Providing a product whose main selling point is its taste, they aim ultimately to fight the rampant environmental destruction associated with the livestock industry by encouraging consumers to swap to their delicious, and more sustainable alternatives. 

“Animal agriculture already takes up 45% of land on Earth,” says Applegren. “It pollutes and consumes precious freshwater and causes vast dead zones in our oceans, and it requires more energy than the entire transportation sector… Raising, slaughtering and transporting animals—and any form of eating animals—is simply not sustainable.”

Addressing the role of Impossible Foods, Appelgren continues: 

“Now we know we can make uncompromisingly delicious, nutritious meat from plants, without animals, with a tiny fraction of the land, water and energy needed for animal agriculture. And unlike those from the animal agriculture industry, our products are getting better and more diverse every year. Over the next half-decade, more and more people will demand plant-based meat, and that’s great news for your health, public health and the planet.”

The Impact of Impossible Foods

“We run a very efficient business with sustainability optimized with every decision,” Appelgren says of their efforts. “We are tracking towards a Zero Waste goal for production and although we don’t own our buildings or factories, we outfit them with cutting edge technologies driving energy efficiency.”

Unlike the ambiguity of many plant-based products, the impact of Impossible Foods’ efforts towards sustainable efficiency is easy to quantify thanks to their innovative Impact Calculator

“Our Impact Calculator was a huge step forward for our company in creating tools to drive awareness for the environmental benefits of our plant-based burger, and making those benefits tangible, ownable, and actionable for consumers and companies,” said Appelgren.

“We hope that customers will use it to understand the marketing potential behind quantifying the positive impacts of the choice to go “Impossible”, and that consumers will use it to grow their knowledge of the power they have every time they eat to affect positive change and then share that with others to amplify that change.”

With this accessible knowledge in mind, Appelgren is clear that the “real “clean” story is the ability that we have to turn back the clock on climate change with every burger sold. 

The supply chain and manufacturing impacts of an Impossible Burger are vastly lower compared to the same burger made using even the most environmentally efficient cattle-based production: 87% less water use, 96% less land use, 89% fewer GHG emissions, and 92% less dead-zone creating nutrient pollution. Those environmental savings will add up quickly as the adoption of plant-based meat increases.”

Put simply: “The product IS our sustainability strategy.”

Current Developments & Future Trajectories

Addressing industry concerns regarding the prioritization of the economic over the ecological, Impossible Foods does not fear a decrease in ethical consumerism. As Appelgren explains,

“…we believe we have created a product that people are eating purely because they love the taste and not necessarily because it’s a more sustainable option (although it is!), and for many right now cooking and great tasting food is a primary focus of daily life.”

“We have always expected to see dramatic growth in our retail operations in 2020, and the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated our efforts. At the start of 2020, Impossible Burger was only in about 150 grocery stores in the USA; we anticipate at least a 50X increase in our retail network by the end of 2020.” 

A clear acceleration in these trends, Impossible Burger recently announced its expansion to more than 1,700 Kroger-owned grocery stores in the US, including Kroger, Dillons, Fred Meyer, Ralphs, Smith’s and more, and through online ordering on Kroger.com.

“The Kroger rollout represents an 18-fold increase in the total number of grocery stores selling the Impossible Burger since the start of this year,” Appelgren explains. “The award-winning, plant-based Impossible Burger is now on shelves in about 2,700 U.S. grocery stores and select online ordering systems, also including 1,000 stores Albertsons Companies’ supermarkets in California, Nevada, and the greater Chicago area, including Albertsons, Safeway, Vons and Pavilions.”

Addressing future consumptions trends, Appelgren adds “I also do think the increasing awareness of environmental issues is going to help grow demand even further. 

According to New Hope Network, on April 13, 67% of US consumers say the environment is more important today than in 2019. People are also beginning to make the connections between eating animals and public health issues like COVID-19. As these truths become better understood, we think more and more people will be inclined to seek out plant-based foods.”

Looking towards a carbon net-zero future, Appelgren is certain that in implementing sustainable change, “Consumers are 100% the answer.”

“We have the opportunity every day, multiple times, to contribute to remaking the food system to correct the detrimental effects that animal agriculture has on the planet. 

We can eat our way to a more delicious, biodiverse and healthy planet, just by choosing meat from plants. And while the government plays a crucial role, restrictions put on citizens in China when they asked their populace to eat less meat just did not work. 

The free markets and consumer choice will be the element driving this systemic change. People will choose plants not because they are told to, but because they want to.”

To check out their products and learn more about the latest developments at Impossible Foods, please see their website here. For more about sustainable food options, please see here.

Camy Sandford

Camy Sandford is an Editor and Senior Writer for CleanTech News. Camy’s focus for sustainable development is longstanding, growing stronger as the realities of the global climate crisis have become more apparent. With a diverse background in the field, she remains most passionate about driving carbon reductions through behavioural change. Firm in her belief that small-scale collective change can have a huge impact, her focus at CleanTech News will centre around finance. Keeping readers up to date on cutting edge innovation, she aims to encourage and support global corporations to bring sustainability to the forefront of their agendas, shining a light on successful current initiatives.