Impossible Foods Wants China to Make Its Own Meat

September 4, 2019, 3:57 PM UTC

Is China hungry for the Impossible Burger?

Patrick Brown, founder and CEO of the Impossible Foods, is on a mission to win over the world’s largest consumer of meat—China—in his crusade to completely replace animals in the food supply with plant-based meat by 2035. The world’s most populous nation accounts for 25% of global meat consumption and roughly half the growth in demand over the past decade.

“Asia in general, and China in particular are essential markets for us,” said Brown, speaking at the Fortune Global Sustainability Forum in Yunnan, China on Wednesday. His Impossible Foods is the maker of the hit plant-based Impossible Burger. “The rate at which this environmental catastrophe of the impact of animals in the food system is unfolding is so incredibly urgent that if we don’t completely replace the system by 2035 we are going to be in terrible shape.”

He argued his business is also essential for China, which is completely import-dependent for a large fraction of its meat supply. “It’s a big food security vulnerability,” he said, noting that China doesn’t have the arable land or water to sustain its own meat industry. “With the efficiency our technology has today, China could produce all the meat that all its citizens need using half its own arable land and water. It could be entirely self-sufficient for its meat supply using plant-based meat production.”

He added, “The opportunity is huge for China to build a domestic plant-based meat industry using ingredients that are produced by farmers in China; production facilities take those ingredients and turn them into meat [in effect] creating jobs.”

Brown said the fast-growing company’s approach to the Chinese market is fundamentally no different than in the U.S. “We’re not deluding ourselves by thinking that we can create veggie burgers that meat lovers will buy. To succeed in China like any place else, you have to be uncompromisingly delicious as meat, be better nutritionally, and compete on cost.”

Though Impossible Foods is currently doing brisk sales in Hong Kong and Macau, it cannot sell its burgers in China until it completes a registration process for the Impossible Burger’s most significant ingredient: heme, a protein the company developed from genetically-engineered yeast to mimic the appealing taste of meat.

Brown noted the timeline for that was uncertain, but an audience member suggested China already has an appetite for the company’s Impossible Burger when he invited the CEO to discuss setting up operations in Yunnan.

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