Impossible Foods raises US$500 mln in new financing

March 17, 2020 15:57
A sandwich made with plant-based pork product is served at the Impossible Foods booth during CES 2020. The US firm is accelerating commercialization of new products despite the global coronavirus crisis. File photo: Bloomberg

Plant-based meat firm Impossible Foods raised about US$500 million in its latest series F funding round despite the global coronavirus crisis and other market uncertainties.

The financing round was led by new investor Mirae Asset Global Investments, a South Korea-based asset manager funded by Korean internet and search firm Naver Corporation, according to an announcement on Monday.

Other investors include Horizons Ventures, the investment arm of Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing’s philanthropy foundation.

Two other existing investors -- Singapore state-owned investment company Temasek Holdings, and Khosla Ventures -- also participated.

The funding round brings the total raised to US$1.3 billion since Impossible Foods’ founding in 2011. The firm did not disclose the terms of the deal, including Impossible’s overall valuation.

Reuters reported last November, citing sources, that the firm was aiming to more than double the US$2 billion valuation it attained in its May funding round.

Impossible Foods said in a statement that the funding will be used to accelerate commercialization of its new line of products: Impossible Sausage made from plants, and Impossible Pork made from plants.

With a debut in 2016, Impossible Foods achieved initial market success with its plant-based meat in beef flavors, thanks to an iron-rich, soy-derived compound meat protein called heme.

It said last year that it has started developing prototypes of many different products including pork, as a way to be better positioned to expand into the mainland China market.

In January this year, the company unveiled two new products, Impossible Pork Made from Plants and Impossible Sausage Made from Plants. The former can be used in any recipe that calls for ground pork from pigs, such as spring rolls and wontons, while the latter has been served in Burger King restaurants in five test regions.

The privately held plant-based meat rival to publicly traded Beyond Meat is expected to fill the void in the mainland China market, as the country has grappled with surging prices for pork after the nation culled an estimated half its herd due to a devastating epidemic of African swine fever.

The California-based firm says the new capital will be deployed for boosting the manufacturing operations and expanding the distribution in supermarkets and other retailers in the US and international markets.

"Our mission is to replace the world’s most destructive technology — the use of animals in food production — by 2035,” Dr Patrick O. Brown, founder and CEO of Impossible Foods, said in a statement.

“To do that, we need to double production every year, on average, for 15 years and double down on research and innovation. The market has its ups and downs, but the global demand for food is always there, and the urgency of our mission only grows. Our investors not only believe in our mission, but they also recognize an extraordinary opportunity to invest in the platform that will transform the global food system.”

As a major development in its distribution, Impossible Foods has supplied its plant-based beef meat to Burger King, which started selling the meatless "Impossible Whopper” in its more than 7,000 locations across the US.

Impossible Foods said the sales surge Burger King experienced in 2019 forced it to quadruple production at its manufacturing facility in Oakland.

In other comments, the firm said it is going to change its operational practices to adapt to the Covid-19 pandemic.

It has taken measures to mitigate the coronavirus outbreak, including a mandatory work-from-home policy for those who can telecommute, and other restrictions on external visitors to company facilities and its co-manufacturing partners.

“With this latest round of fundraising, Impossible Foods has the resources to accelerate growth—and continue to thrive in a volatile macroeconomic environment, including the current COVID-19 pandemic,” David Lee, chief financial officer, told TechCrunch.

Impossible Foods hasn't experienced any material impact on its business due to the global outbreak, Lee said in a separate interview with Forbes, even though its burgers can be found as far as Hong Kong, Macau, and other Asian markets.

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