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Vegan burger boom leads Impossible Foods to $300M

Plant-based meat is having a moment. And Impossible Foods is taking advantage.

The vegan burger startup has raised $300 million in new funding at a $2 billion valuation, adding to an already-healthy pile of VC backing and attaining unicorn status in the process. Temasek and Horizons Ventures led the round, while a host of celebrity investors are also said to have chipped in cash, including Serena Williams, Jay Z, Trevor Noah and Katy Perry.

The financing comes about two weeks after Burger King announced plans to introduce the Impossible Whopper at restaurants across the country, the biggest move yet in the fast food industry's ongoing embrace of vegan alternatives. It also comes shortly after a stunningly successful public debut for rival Beyond Meat, which saw the price of its shares more than triple in initial trading following an IPO in early May.

Beyond Meat was founded in 2009, and Impossible Foods launched two years later; both are based in California. But it was Impossible Foods that first captured major VC attention, raising more than $27 million at a $147 million valuation back in 2013. The company raised about $396 million in total venture funding prior to this week's new influx of cash, according to an SEC filing at the time, including $108 million at a $700 million valuation in 2015.

Beyond Meat, meanwhile, didn't reach a $100 million valuation until late 2015, when it brought in $17 million at a $147 million figure. It continued to bring in more cash at a rapid rate, however, including a $50.3 million round that valued it at $1.35 billion back in November, six months prior to its public offering.

Upon the completion of that public offering, it became apparent that the enthusiasm VCs have shown for vegan food is also present in the public markets. Beyond Meat priced its IPO at $25 per share; the stock promptly skyrocketed, closing its first day of trading at $65.75 and shooting as high as $85 per share before a minor correction. But shares in Beyond Meat (NASDAQ: BYND) are still hovering around $70 apiece, giving the company a market cap of nearly $4 billion.

That massive spike in valuation—and Impossible Foods' newest backing—come as the industry is reaching at least some degree of maturity. Plant-based meat alternatives are becoming more popular among consumers, and several of the largest restaurant chains in the US are taking note. White Castle partnered with Impossible Foods last year to begin serving Impossible Sliders at its locations. Carl's Jr. has been selling Beyond Burgers since January. And companies like KFC and Taco Bell are also creating new meatless offerings.

American eaters are famously fans of red meat, but they're becoming more willing and eager than ever to indulge in

plant-based alternatives. Serena Williams, Katy Perry and the rest of Impossible Foods' backers are betting the trend will continue.

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