Impossible’s New Mission: a Non-Dairy Milk That Will Mimic the Real Thing

The company is also nearly doubling its R&D department, with the eventual goal of ending animal agriculture

Impossible Foods, which is looking to double its R&D staff, is working on a fake dairy milk prototype. Impossible Foods
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Impossible Foods, best known for the faux burgers it sells at grocery stores and through fast food chains like Burger King, has created a non-dairy milk substitute while continuing to work on plant-based alternatives to steak, bacon, fish and chicken.

The Silicon Valley-based startup, which has raised $700 million this year as its retail sales spiked, this week showed off the milk prototype that the company is developing.

Via a Zoom call with journalists on Tuesday, the company’s founder Pat Brown called existing milk substitutes “inadequate” and said that some people, including himself, drink them “grudgingly” for lack of better choices.

The Impossible milk, in a demo from the brand’s test kitchen, mixed into hot coffee without clumping and foamed up for a cappuccino-like topping to help make Brown’s point that plant-based alternatives must mimic animal products to break into the mainstream.

“Our intent is not just another plant-based milk to add to the shelf,” said Brown, who noted there’s no launch date for Impossible’s “functional” milk. “It’s critical to our mission to make something that for dairy lovers is better than anything that comes from a cow.”

For Impossible to claim success, it will need to outperform animal-derived products on every measure that’s important to consumers, he said, including convenience, taste, affordability, nutrition and sustainability.

Animal produce as a ‘serious environmental threat’

The hour-long call, which hadn’t been billed as a new product sneak peek, was actually intended to be a recruiting ad for the startup. Brown wants to hire at least 100 scientists, nearly doubling the company’s R&D department, with the long-term goal of ending animal agriculture. He has appeared in a newly launched short film, directly appealing to scientists to join the company.

Calling the traditional food system “the most destructive industry” and “the most serious environmental threat” to the planet, Brown sent out a plea directly to the scientific and academic communities.

“Whatever you’re doing is a drop in the bucket compared to the impact you can have by helping us on this project,” said Brown, who sat in front of a Zoom background of the Amazon rainforest on fire. “You may be working on something incredibly interesting and important, but none of it matters if our planet is a wasteland.”

Though Impossible and rivals like Beyond Meat have been dragged for being “food tech” companies where products are “made in labs,” Brown leaned into the description, saying science and engineering will help solve the world’s environmental issues. (The company has a history of tech-based relationships, like its presence at the Consumer Electronics Show as the first food brand to appear at the annual gathering).

Brown, in answering reporters’ questions, said Impossible will hit price parity with animal protein “in a few years,” addressing a common consumer complaint that faux meat is more expensive.

@TLStanleyLA T.L. Stanley is a senior editor at Adweek, where she specializes in consumer trends, cannabis marketing, meat alternatives, pop culture, challenger brands and creativity.