Soylent, Impossible Burgers And More: What Do High-Tech Foods Really Taste Like?

By Marisa Kendall
The Mercury News

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) So far this year, Venture capitalists have poured nearly $110 million into next-generation food startups that include everything from nutrient-rich meal-replacement drinks to bio-engineered fake meat.

SAN JOSE, Calif.

Your fridge is connected to the internet, your car parks itself and you do all your shopping online from the comfort of your bed. But are you still eating low-tech food?

A new generation of startups wants to change that. They’re cooking up everything from nutrient-rich meal-replacement drinks to bio-engineered fake meat, with the goal of making mealtime healthier, more efficient and better for the environment.

Venture capitalists have poured nearly $110 million into these next-generation food startups so far this year, according to PitchBook Data, and a few companies have developed a cult following of techies.

Eager to see what all the buzz was about, I gathered a panel of reporters and editors from The Mercury News to sample meal replacement products from Soylent and MealSquares.

Then I tasted plant-based burgers from Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat. The verdict? No one is giving up their favorite lunches.

Still, these alternative food startups fit right into Silicon Valley, their leaders put a premium on efficiency and talk about farming and raising livestock the way someone else might talk about an outdated computer.

“Animals are just a technology for food production, a prehistoric technology for producing meat and dairy foods,” said Patrick Brown, CEO and founder of plant-based “meat” maker Impossible Foods.

Brown, who is opening a new factory in Oakland this summer, spent three years in a lab using plant compounds to reverse engineer the taste, smell, texture and look of ground beef.

Southern California-based Beyond Meat has the same idea, selling “the future of protein” in the form of plant-based burgers and chicken strips intended to taste like the real thing.

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