releasing a product that’s not delicious the first
day it’s on the market.
“Unlike software where you can put something
out there and iterate on it very quickly if it’s not
working, we really had to put something out there
that blew people’s minds,” Mr. Worth says. By the
end of 2016, Impossible Foods had launched the
burger in four restaurants across the U.S.
It’s not just vegetarians who crave this fake meat.
Other consumers and producers are motivated by
animal welfare and environmental concerns associated with conventional meat production.
SuperMeat doesn’t rely on plants or animals to
make meat—just scientists and a strong project
team. The company’s lab is using small cells of
chicken to grow larger tissue that eventually will
become meat. But the organization says it will need
US$2.5 million to create a cost-effective prototype
that could validate its product and lead to mass
production of so-called cultured meat.
The environment also would benefit. Production
of cultured meat would use 99 percent less land,
emit up to 96 percent less greenhouse gases and
use up to 96 percent less water than today’s meat
industry, according to SuperMeat.
For all but the most environmentally conscientious consumers, however, flavor tends to matter
above all else. So at organizations like Impossible
Foods, the quest to perfect faux-meat flavors continues. Says Mr. Worth: “If you’re not delicious,
nothing else matters.” —Christina Couch
Fake meat is real. But it’s up to project teams to
ensure that alternatives to beef, chicken, pork or
fish—whether sourced from plants or made in a
lab—taste just like the real thing.
The global meat substitutes industry is pro-
jected to reach US$5.2 billion by 2020—an annual
compound growth rate of 8 percent since 2015,
according to Allied Market
Research. A slew of startups,
including SuperMeat in Israel
and Beyond Meat in the United
States, have launched projects
to develop products that repli-
cate the taste and even juice of
But making flavorful meat
substitutes requires massive
upfront project funding and
time, says Dana Worth, direc-
tor of commercialization for Impossible Foods,
Redwood City, California, USA.
For instance, Impossible Foods raised US$182
million in funding. It budgeted five years of R&D
to capture the essence of beef—right down to
the scent—to create a plant-based burger. The
R&D team held as many as three in-house
taste tests each day to perfect the product.
Such extensive trial and error is neces-
sary, Mr. Worth says, because teams
can’t afford to leave a bad taste
in consumers’ mouths by
“Unlike software where
you can put something out
there and iterate on it very
quickly if it’s not working,
we really had to put
something out there that
blew people’s minds.”
—Dana Worth, Impossible Foods, Redwood City,