The list of most anticipated initial public offerings of 2022 is dominated by tech firms, but there are a few outliers. One is a plant-based meat company founded by a former Stanford University professor that just happens to be headquartered in the heart of Silicon Valley.
That company is Impossible Foods, which makes meatless burgers, sausages, chicken, and other edibles. The founder and CEO is Dr. Pat Brown, Professor Emeritus in Stanford University’s Biochemistry Department at the School of Medicine and inventor of the DNA microarray.
In a recent interview with Forbes, Brown said that “at some point” Impossible Foods will go public. He didn’t provide any specific time frame, but many market watchers expect it to happen sometime this year. The company is on the shortlist of highly anticipated IPOs because of its rapid growth and list of heavyweight financial backers.
Since being founded a decade ago, Impossible Foods has already raised nearly $2 billion – impressive for any startup, but especially one that operates in a small (if growing) niche of the food business. The company’s list of investors features numerous billionaires and their venture funds, including Khosla Ventures, Bill Gates, and Li Ka-Shing’s Horizons Ventures.
On Nov. 23, Impossible Foods raised roughly $500 million in its latest funding round, which was led by Mirae Asset Global Investments and other existing investors. That round brought Impossible Foods’ total valuation up to about $7 billion, according to estimates from Bloomberg.
A public listing could push its value to $10 billion or higher, Reuters reported earlier this year. The company’s products are currently sold in about 22,000 stores and 40,000 restaurants worldwide. Primary markets include the United States, Canada, Hong Kong, Macau, and Singapore, and it recently entered Australia and New Zealand. Impossible Foods is the fastest-growing plant-based meat company in retail, according to a revenue analysis from industry researcher IRI.
It’s all pretty heady stuff for a company whose founder had no previous food experience. During a sabbatical in 2009, Brown decided to make a career change. Specifically, he saw an opportunity to make the global food system more sustainable by focusing on plant-based meats, which have a much lower carbon footprint than animal products.
According to the Impossible Foods website, Brown assembled a team of scientists to analyze meat at the molecular level and determine why it looks, cooks, and tastes the way it does. The team developed proprietary research and technology to recreate “the entire sensory experience” of meat, dairy, and fish using plants.
Impossible Foods’ first product, the Impossible Burger, was launched in 2016. Four years later it launched Impossible Sausage. Future plans include commercializing additional meat, fish, and dairy products.
The company’s stated mission is to “restore biodiversity and reduce the impact of climate change by transforming the global food system.” It notes that animal meat production uses nearly half of the world’s land, is responsible for at least 15% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and consumes 25% of the world’s freshwater. Plant-based meats require only a fraction of the land, water, and energy required by animal agriculture.
Impossible Foods’ plan to go public is partly inspired by a desire to give small investors more access to sustainable products and companies.
“There’s a couple of reasons why (an IPO is) inevitable,” Brown told Forbes. “You have easier access to capital to support growth, but more importantly to me, there are millions of non-billionaires out there who are very, very supportive of our mission but they don’t have a chance to share in our success. They would love to support the future of their planet and their kids and grandkids’ future, but they can’t invest in Impossible Foods. I don’t like that.”