From Meat to Milk: Impossible Foods Doesn't Stop Innovating

The plant-based food company revealed a cool new milk, but it's just one of many ongoing projects.

Impossible Foods lab
View of Impossible Foods' laboratory.

Impossible Foods (used with permission)

Impossible Foods has always had impressive aspirations. The cutting-edge food innovator says it wants to make animal agriculture obsolete by 2035, and while that may or may not go as planned, the company held a virtual press conference on October 20 that revealed its progress on a new dairy-free milk prototype.

Founder Dr. Pat Brown said that current plant-based milks are not meeting standards for taste, aroma, and texture. "[They] are inadequate. If they weren't, there wouldn't be dairy cows anymore." The new prototype is supposed to be much closer to cow's milk than any plant-based rivals. While it has not been revealed what the final base protein will be (likely soy), or whether the process uses microbial fermentation, lead scientist Laura Kliman did say that the milk they've experimented with so far is creamier than other plant-based milks.

A demonstration during the press conference revealed how it blends into hot coffee and stays mixed, without settling at the bottom, nor does it make the coffee gritty or cloudy. Kliman said it also makes nice foam, thanks to stable proteins.

There is no commercial launch date in sight for the milk, as it will continue to be developed and tweaked until the formula is just right. In Kliman's words, "[We're] not going to launch a product until it's at the same quality or even better than the animal-derived version. This is just a demo, we're not announcing any launch at this time." (via Food Navigator)

In conversation with Treehugger, communications director Keely Sulprizio made it clear that the milk demo was less about showing off the specific project than trying to attract researchers to the Impossible Foods team. The milk is "just one of many prototypes we're working on behind the scenes," she said, along with steak, fish, chicken, eggs, and more.

Impossible is pouring money into R&D, hoping to double its team and attract some of the world's top scientists to a company that is happy to provide funding, facilities, equipment, and support for whatever research they want to do – as long as it aligns with Impossible's goal of accelerating plant-based alternatives to animal agriculture.

Sulpizio explained that the company has launched an "Impossible Investigator" program, with 10 professional positions that are designed to be alternatives to traditional academic research positions. "These roles don't have job descriptions. They are open-ended. We are looking for people who can bring their own ideas to the table about what kind of research they want to be doing," she said.

Impossible Foods call for scientists
Impossible Foods wants scientists to join its team.

Impossible Foods (used with permission)

There are an additional 50 positions available for scientists, engineers, and others to join projects that are already underway. These will be partly funded by the $700 million the company has raised this year alone, bringing its total amount of investor capital to an impressive $1.5 billion since its creation in 2011. It's no wonder the company has a reputation for being the world's #1 environmental startup.

VegNews reports Dr. Brown urging scientists to join the exciting R&D team during the press conference: "Whatever else you may be doing, it’s a drop in the bucket compared to the impact you can have here with our project ... Leave your job and come join us."

It's certainly exciting to watch from the outside. Impossible has exploded onto the marketplace in the past few years as a major game-changer, creating a soy and potato protein based burger that's a remarkably close facsimile to real meat. Its goal is to convince meat-eaters that plant-based alternatives can be just as good, if not better, than real meat – and in doing so, combat the environmental devastation that results from animal agriculture. If any company can make meat obsolete, Impossible is positioning itself well to be it.