What’s possible? Impossible Foods teases its “fishless fish” aspirations

Back in 2016, startup company Impossible Foods launched its very first product, the Impossible Burger – a patty made from plants, “for people who love to eat meat.”

Founded in 2011 with a mission to “make the global food system truly sustainable by eliminating the need to make food from animals,” Impossible Foods soon saw its premier offering receive the royal treatment courtesy of a partnership with global fast food giant Burger King. From the collaboration emerged the Impossible Whopper, a new take on Burger King’s classic sandwich featuring the Impossible Burger in place of the typical meat patty. Marketed as “100% Whopper, 0% Beef,” the Impossible Whopper is now available at select Burger King locations across the United States.

Coming off of this initial success, Impossible Foods has been exploring other categories where it can apply its plant-based prowess. According to a recent report from The New York Times, in June 2019, the company’s research and development team was busy diving into potential “fishless fish” products – even trialing an anchovy-flavored broth made entirely from plants for use in paella dishes. SeafoodSource contacted Impossible Foods to get the latest on its cursory venture into plant-based seafood alternatives.

SeafoodSource: What are the main factors driving Impossible Foods’ venture into the “fishless fish” segment? Is this the natural next step for the company?

Impossible Foods: Impossible Foods’ mission is to transform the global food system to support the planet and growing human population. Our goal is to replace animals as a food production technology by 2035, and provide consumers with meat, fish, and dairy foods that are good for both people and the planet. While the award-winning Impossible Burger was the first product we introduced, it certainly will not be the last.

SeafoodSource: The Impossible Foods R&D team was reportedly able to create an anchovy-flavored broth made from plants for paella earlier this summer – have there been any further developments with this effort, or similar trial products?

Impossible Foods: Our work so far has focused on analyzing the flavor of fish, which can be reproduced using heme. In case [you’re] unfamiliar, heme is a protein molecule that is found in all living things – both plants and animals – and is what makes meat taste and look like meat. It is well-known as the molecule that carries oxygen in our blood and is vital for life; it is also a flavor catalyst that generates meaty flavor when heated. Heme is particularly abundant in meat, and is a direct source of iron.

We do not have additional news to announce on the production of plant-based fish at this time, but it is absolutely the mission of Impossible Foods to make all meat, fish, and dairy products that consumers love directly from plants as soon as possible. Impossible Foods is currently ramping production of our Impossible Burger, and will be focused on new products in the coming years.

SeafoodSource: One hallmark of the Impossible Burger is its ability to “bleed” and assume other beef-based, burger-like traits. When creating possible plant-based seafood alternatives, are there any particular characteristics Impossible Foods is hoping to emulate?

Impossible Foods: When developing products, the Impossible Foods’ team of scientists looks at every part of the sensory experience of eating animal proteins – flavor, aroma, texture, cooking properties, handling properties, appearance, etc. – to determine how to improve in taste, nutrition, and sustainability. These are all factors we will consider as we continue our work on fish.

Photo courtesy of Impossible Foods


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