Several startups are trying to take plant-based meat alternatives to a new level [npr.org]. They include Impossible Foods, which has created a meatless burger that contains heme, a molecule that contributes color, taste, and texture to meat:
This summer, diners in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles will get their hands on a hamburger that's been five years in the making. The burger looks, tastes and smells just like beef — except it's made entirely from plants. It sizzles on the grill and even browns and oozes fat when it cooks. It's the brainchild of former Stanford biochemist Patrick Brown and his research team at Northern California-based Impossible Foods [impossiblefoods.com].
[...] It's not the only faux meat company selling bloody plant patties. Last month, Los Angeles-based Beyond Meat [beyondmeat.com] made headlines when it released the Beyond Burger [beyondmeat.com], its pea protein burger that sizzles like real meat and "bleeds" beet juice. The burgers quickly sold out after debuting at a Whole Foods in Boulder, Colo. Beyond Meat's investors include Microsoft founder Bill Gates. Gates is also backing Impossible Foods. So is billionaire venture capitalist Vinod Khosla and Google Ventures. All told, the company has raised some $182 million in seed funding. Last year, Impossible Foods turned down Google's offer to buy the company for $200 to $300 million.
The Impossible Burger is more than just peas and carrots smashed together: It's the result of some pretty high-tech research. Brown's team analyzes meat at a molecular level to determine what makes a burger taste, smell and cook the way it does. He wants his burgers to be squishy while raw, then firm up and brown on the grill. He believes everything from an animal's fat tissue to muscle cells can be replicated using plant compounds.