“I was getting laughed out of town when I said I was going to invest in a plant-based burger in 2011,” Mr Kaul said. “I think people really thought I had lost it.”
Less than a decade later, Impossible is valued at more than $4bn and has its animal-free meat products in Burger King and Starbucks. Beyond Meat — a close competitor, which also raised its first round of venture capital in 2011 — has quintupled in value since an initial public offering last year and now commands an $9.6bn market capitalisation.
For investors, these businesses also represent a new approach to tackling climate change and pursuing sustainable development. Mr Kaul’s investment in Impossible followed a push by many venture capitalists —including Mr Kaul — into so-called clean energy tech companies, which have largely failed to deliver the hoped-for returns. The difference this time is that consumers have shown up in droves, fuelling projections of 15.8 per cent annual growth in the plant-based meat alternatives market until 2027, according to a Polaris Market Research analysis.
“We learned in cleantech that people care about the environment, but they don’t want to pay to care about the environment,” Mr Kaul says. “But they will pay to care about food.”