*First Published August 1, 2017. Updated April 4, 2018 to reflect new financing.”
Plant-based burger maker Impossible Foods has added a $114 million convertible note to its ample coffers. The additional financing comes from existing investor Singapore state fund Temasek along with Chinese private equity firm Sailing Capital.
The company closed $75 million in Series E funding in August 2017, with Temasek leading the round. This marked the fourth agtech investment for the Singaporean state fund and the second investment in a company looking to replace animal products with no-slaughter alternatives.
The startup has now raised roughly $396 million in debt and equity in total, making it the best-funded alternative protein startup to date. Also participating in the August round were existing investors Open Philanthropy Project, Bill Gates, Khosla Ventures, and Horizons Ventures.
Impossible Foods makes a plant-based burger with synthesized heme, the non-protein part of hemoglobin in blood that carries oxygen. This compound ingredient helps Impossible’s burgers cook, taste, and bleed like beef. It obtains heme by genetically modifying yeast and using fermentation to produce a heme protein naturally found in plants, called soy leghemoglobin.
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In 2017, Impossible Foods received a patent for its use of leghemoglobin in plant-based meat. The 200-person startup says it has more than 100 additional patents pending.
Temasek has made various agrifood tech investments in recent years, investing in VoloAgri in 2016, a vegetable seed technology and breeding company, and Modern Meadow, the bio-fabricated leather manufacturer. It has also invested in StarAgri Warehousing and Collateral Management, an Indian agriculture logistics company.
At Temasek’s 2017 review presentation on July 11, head of strategy Michael Buchanan said about the Impossible burger, “I’ve had a few of their burgers, and even as a very longstanding meat-lover, I can tell you they taste really good!”
According to the fund’s website, 4% of Temasek $197 billion worth of investments are in the “life sciences and agribusiness” category.
The most direct competitor of Impossible Foods in the alternative protein space is Beyond Meat, another plant-based burger company, which like Impossible has received funding from Bill Gates. Beyond Meat has raised at least $72 million to date.
The only other alternative protein startup that has come close to Impossible Foods’ total funding is Hampton Creek, which has raised $220 million in six rounds to date. A recent walk-out from the entire board less founder Josh Tetrick, along with operating at major losses, led some to predict the company would run out of money early in 2018. In a departure from his core business of making food products with a pea-based egg replacement, Tetrick has claimed that he will have a cultured meat product on the market this year.
Impossible Foods has focused its marketing and distribution on high-end food service to date and celebrated chefs like David Chang and Brad Farmerie and a few others began serving the burger at their restaurants in 2017. More casual burger chain restaurants in New York, California, and Texas began serving the burger in the recent months – now totaling roughly 1000.
Chef Brad Farmerie, who has been serving the Impossible burger at his New York restaurant Saxon + Parole since February 2017 told AgFunderNews, “To be honest, I just see the Impossible meat as a recipe. It’s the same as if you bought a really amazing cured salami …They decided the ratios of those ingredients. They decided how long to age it. And if you look at the Impossible Burger, you’re looking at the same thing. They decided the ratios in it; they decided the amount of hemoglobin. They decide all of those things.”
Impossible Foods began ramping up its first large-scale production facility in September 2017 and will soon be adding a second shift to keep up with demand. The Impossible burger will make its debut in Asia later in April 2018.