Impossible Foods: Making a Sustainable Future

Our virtual exhibit for San Francisco Design Week, “Bay Area Made: Making a Sustainable Future” features 39 of our member companies sharing the sustainable practices they are implementing in their products and business operations. Impossible Foods makes delicious, nutritious, and affordable, meat, dairy and fish from plants. In the excerpt below from the exhibit, they share their mission to restore biodiversity and reduce the impact of climate change by transforming the global food system. To view the full exhibit on the San Francisco Design Week website, click on the link at the bottom of the page.

We’re Impossible Foods, and we make meat, dairy and fish from plants. Our mission is to make the global food system truly sustainable by eliminating the need to make food from animals. Why? Animal agriculture uses a tremendous amount of the world’s natural resources. It occupies nearly half of the world’s land, is responsible for 15% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and consumes 25% of the world’s freshwater. We make meat using a small fraction of land, water and energy, so people can keep eating what they love.


Materials & Ingredients

In 2016, we launched our first product, the Impossible™ Burger. It’s delicious, nutritious, and made using but a small fraction of the land, water and energy required to make meat from a cow. Impossible™ Burger is made from proteins, flavors, fats, and binders, like almost every burger you’ve eaten in your life. The key difference? Our ingredients are derived from plants. Here’s an overview:

• Protein from soy and potatoes
• Flavor from heme (the molecule that makes meat taste like meat)
• Fat from coconut and sunflower oils make it sizzle on the griddle
• Binders, methylcellulose and food starch, hold it together so you can make anything you want — meatballs, kebab, patties, etc.

Impossible™ Pork, announced in January 2020, is made of soy protein, coconut oil, sunflower oil, and heme. Unlike the Impossible™ Burger, Impossible™ Pork does not contain potato protein.

Heme is an iron-containing molecule found in every living organism — both plants and animals. Impossible Foods’ scientists discovered heme is what makes meat taste like meat. Impossible products get their heme from the protein soy leghemoglobin, which is naturally found in soy roots. Impossible Foods produces soy leghemoglobin through genetic engineering and fermentation. Thanks to heme, Impossible products have a rich, meaty flavor that satisfies the most discerning meat-eaters — but it contains no animal products whatsoever.

Packaging & Delivery

The tray of our retail packaging is both made from recycled materials (rPET) as well as recyclable in the most common recycling stream (#1).

All packaging aligns to Impossible Foods’ sustainable packaging philosophy, which prioritizes dematerialization along with recyclability, low-complexity of disassembly, optimization of pack density, and above all, preservation of the product.

Shipping and delivery is consistent with industry standard frozen food distribution channels.

“Impossible Foods was founded with the intention of empowering consumers to help halt climate change, spare land for biodiversity, reduce net agricultural inputs, and keep fresh water available for natural habitats to thrive, while improving long term food security.”

Quality & Value

Impossible Foods was founded with the intention of empowering consumers to help halt climate change, spare land for biodiversity, reduce net agricultural inputs, and keep fresh water available for natural habitats to thrive, while improving long term food security. We have begun this work through our flagship product, the Impossible Burger. The Impossible Burger is plant-based, but replicates the taste of beef and uses significantly fewer resources that harm our planet.

We maintain an ISO compliant comparative Life Cycle Assessment weighing the environmental impacts of Impossible Burger against US industrial beef. Compared to beef, Impossible 2.0 requires 96% less land (viable habitat), 87% less fresh water, generates 89% fewer GHG emissions, and results in 92% less pollution to freshwater ecosystems.

Because environmental sustainability strategy is embedded into core business strategy, we consider Impossible Foods’ market penetration success via meat-eating consumers to be our highest function. Consumer insights data shows that >90% of our consumers are meat-eaters, demonstrating that with the right high quality product, environmental transformations are possible.

Waste Reduction

Impossible Foods is a member of the US Green Business Council Zero Waste program and has a manufacturing zero waste certification goal in progress. The certification requires a 90% average landfill diversion and robust suite of waste reduction tactics and training programs.

We are also piloting a water recycle/re-use technology, which can reduce up to 40% of our water footprint in heme ingredient production.

Local Supply Chains

A sustainable product starts with sustainable ingredients. With the exception of heme, which is produced in-house, the main ingredients of Impossible Burgers are purchased through outside vendors. We work closely with each vendor on understanding their sustainability commitments and practices, and to identify any opportunities for mutual support on our respective sustainability journeys.

In 2018, we began rolling out a new platform to advance environmental and social considerations within our supply chain. Our first step has been the (in progress) development of our Supplier Code of Conduct, which goes beyond regulatory compliance to focus on expectations of mutual continuous progress between our business and our suppliers.

Energy Efficiency

Manufacturing accounts for the bulk of our facilities-based footprint. We’re tracking energy and GHGs estimated per pound of Impossible Burger produced in Oakland. Since we began steadily manufacturing the product, energy use per pound has dropped by more than half. There is a close correlation between the volume of burger made per month and the energy efficiency associated with each pound.

Beyond energy economies of scale, we are also investigating ways we can optimize footprint areas like boilers, HVACs and compressors. We installed passive lighting systems to help keep energy demand down, including adding skylights with sensors that tell the low-energy solar tubes how much supplemental light they should be producing. In meeting rooms, we switched to 100% LED lighting from fluorescents. Motion sensors were installed so unused areas of the building are not wasting energy. Thanks to a Community Choice Energy program, the grid from which we source is powered by 50% renewable and 85% GHG-free sources, which dramatically drops the carbon emissions per kilowatt hours used.

Goals & Aspirations

Our mission is to restore biodiversity and reduce the impact of climate change by transforming the global food system.

The best thing we can do for sustainability goals is to keep capturing market share of animal products. As such, our biggest aspirations are around new products that maximize the environmental outcomes of substitution, including pork and more cow-based products.

In terms of our own footprint, we are interested in setting Science Based Targets once we have passed a few more scaling milestones.

Certifications & Memberships

Impossible Foods is an active member of:
US Green Business Council
United Nations Global Compact
Ceres BICEP policy network

In 2019, Impossible Foods was the winner of the UN Climate Change’s Momentum for Change initiative, the UN Global Climate Action Award.


View the Full SF Design Week Exhibit


View the Impossible Foods profile.

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