It’s a widely held belief that the world would be better off if people didn’t eat animals or animal products. The air and water would be cleaner, the animals happier, the climate cooler.
The main catch is that animals and dairy products are delicious. People love eating them, and as developing countries like China and India get richer, demand for tasty meat and cheese is only going to go up.
Pat Brown, CEO of Impossible Foods, has been spending the past decade trying to do something about that. Specifically, he has tried to make plants taste as good as animals — good enough that even meat lovers would enjoy them.
Brown’s dream was to make his plant-based burger mainstream, and he has done just that: The Impossible Burger is now available at chains that are as mainstream as it gets, including Burger King, White Castle and Hard Rock Café.
In 2011, he founded Impossible Foods, maker of the Impossible Burger, which uses plant products to create something that resembles ground beef. Apart from selecting the right plant proteins, fats and starches to resemble hamburger, he also adds heme, the iron-rich component in blood that Brown says allows meat to taste like meat. It also makes the Impossible Burger appear to bleed like real ground beef. Brown derives the heme from plant sources, keeping the product entirely vegan.
The company is looking to bring other non-meat ingredients in the mainstream as well. Most recently, the company has been offering a plant-based sausage. Burger King earlier this month said it was testing the product on a breakfast sandwich, and Little Caesars last year offered the company’s sausage on a pizza.
Another frontier for Brown: Plant-based dairy. Even before taking on the beloved burger, Brown, a medical doctor and biochemist, also tackled cheese. In 2010 he teamed up with vegan chef Tal Ronnen and cheesemaker Monte Casino to found Kite Hill, a company that figured out how to get almond milk to catalyze just like dairy milk and create non-dairy cheese that resembled the real thing.
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