Impossible Foods’ Pat Brown is walking away from his role as CEO at the company he founded 11 years ago in order to focus his time on key strategic initiatives. He will remain as chief visionary officer, reporting to the board and continuing to lead hands-on research, public outreach and technology progress. Brown says these are the areas he is most interested in and did not have time to dedicate to as the company’s CEO.
Taking on as Peter McGuinness. Formerly Greek yogurt pioneer Chobani’s operating chief, McGuinness brings a wealth of food industry experience. His decision to leave his former post was, reportedly, influenced by Chobani’s delayed IPO, which saw a number of the executive team depart.
Back to the floor
Brown’s original motivation for Impossible was to offer foods that could offset climate change and reverse biodiversity loss, by reducing global meat consumption. He set a goal of 2035 for tangible change. The products he has developed have garnered fans around the globe, including celebrity backers. However, as the Impossible grew, Brown’s CEO role eclipsed his direct involvement with product development and strategic planning, his passions. He has noted that the constraints of the leading role will only increase.
“As Impossible’s business has grown in size, scale and complexity, the demands of that business have increasingly encroached on the time I have available to lead strategic initiatives; to communicate our mission to the public and policy-makers; and most importantly, to guide the research and technology innovation that continues to power our long-term success,” he wrote in a letter published on Impossible’s website.
“Given the momentum of our business, our accelerating product pipeline, ongoing international expansion and the magnitude of our mission, the leadership demands of the commercial business will inevitably continue to grow,”
Stepping down from a more administrative role, Brown will be able to drive product progress from a practical vantage point while the new CEO generates company growth. The two will work closely together on a long-term strategy for continued success.
Impossible lost two key executives last year, both of which had notable public facing roles. Rachel Konrad, the company’s former CCO, left to pursue other opportunities. She has since joined NextGen Foods‘s board in September 2021. David Lee, Impossible’s former CFO stepped down to go to to agri-tech AppHarvest as president.
New face incoming
McGuinness starts as Imposible CEO on April 4. He comes fresh from eight years with U.S. yoghurt maker Chobani. “The key with Impossible, with all of its great innovation, is to make [its products] more available and more accessible to more people,” McGuinness said in an interview. “The company is in a great spot, by the way — I’m not coming in to fix anything, I’m coming in to try to help the company grow more than it’s already grown.”
Riding out the storm
Impossible has ridden a tumultuous industry wave. Alongside the rest of the plant-based meat sector, it witnessed a huge boom at the start of the Covid-19 outbreak, with consumers looking for healthier food options. This led to optimism that the tide had turned in favour of meat-free dining. However, more recently, sales of meat alternatives appear to have plateaued in the US market. Cynics suggest that the bubble may have burst when it comes to novelty vegan meats.
Impossible appears to be staying on top, however. Last year’s fourth-quarter results showed an 85 percent increase in retail revenue and an IPO is still not out of the question. The company recently announced a move into retail sales in Australia and New Zealand last week and recently launched nuggets in the shape of endangered animals in their home market aimed at children.
The last funding round launched brought in $500 million, pushing the company’s valuation to $9.5 billion. “There’s no rush or urgency to go public, not to say that we wouldn’t decide to do that down the road,” McGuinness said in a statement.
It hasn’t all been good news though. Impossible is facing a legal battle. The company is embroiled in a courtroom drama with Motif Foodworks. Impossible claims that its signature heme ingredient has been copied by Motif and labelled as ‘HEMAMI’. An IP infringement complaint has been filed and the case continues.
All photos by Impossible Foods.