Impossible Foods—the food tech company known for the realistically meaty Impossible Burger—is on an ambitious mission. Within the next decade, it wants to make animal products obsolete. Up next for the company: Creating dairy-identical vegan milk.
At a virtual press conference on Tuesday, senior flavor scientist Dr. Laura Kilman demonstrated the Impossible milk prototype at the company’s test kitchen in Redwood City, California. Standing before a steel table of various plant-based milks in Petri dishes, Dr. Kilman explained: “We’re really looking to create products that function and behave just like the animal-derived version.”
Unlike other plant-based milks, Impossible milk doesn’t precipitate (that dreaded curdling) when poured into coffee. Dr. Kilman poured the milk into a mug to demonstrate. It also foams and froths like dairy milk.
The product is in the prototype phase and Impossible Foods has not yet finalized the recipe. The milk demoed in the test kitchen featured soy protein, the key ingredient in Impossible meat.
Vegan milk is the most developed category of the plant-based food market, according to food-focused nonprofit, the Good Food Institute. SPINS market research shows that plant-based milk accounts for 14 percent of all dollar sales for retail milk.
‘Better Than Anything That Comes From a Cow’
The dairy aisle of the supermarket is lined with an ever-growing multitude of options, including almond, oat, pea protein, and flax. A handful of companies are also creating plant-based versions of whey and casein, the main proteins found in dairy, which could be used to develop dairy-identical milk.
Pat Brown, CEO and founder of Impossible Foods, called the current options on the market “inadequate.”
“Our intention isn’t just to make another plant-based milk,” he said. “It’s to make something that for a dairy milk lover, is better than anything that comes from a cow.”
Why milk? Animal agriculture accounts for 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN. Cattle are the most environmentally destructive livestock; they emit methane, a greenhouse gas 25 times more destructive than carbon dioxide, and beef and dairy production are highly resource-intensive.
Impossible Foods also announced that it will double its research and development team, hiring more than 100 scientists within the next 12 months. Chief financial officer David Lee explained that investing in R&D will help the company continue to make products that will make consumers “vote with their stomachs.” This includes improving current products and developing new ones.
The company has raised more than $700 million this year, a portion of which will be used for hiring. It is also establishing a new department, biomanufacturing, and will work on expanding production. Additional products in the pipeline include plant-based steak, bacon, and fish.