Impossible Foods CEO Pat Brown in 2019
Robyn Beck | AFP | Getty Images
Impossible Foods founder Pat Brown is stepping down as CEO, and Chobani’s departing operating chief, Peter McGuinness, will take the helm of the company.
The transition comes after a rollercoaster two years for the plant-based meat industry. Impossible and rival Beyond Meat both saw their grocery sales skyrocket in the early days of the pandemic as meat shortages directed more customers to their products. That helped offset slumping restaurant sales.
But in recent months, the plant-based meat category has seen sales growth slow, prompting concerns about long-term growth prospects, although Impossible said its fourth-quarter retail revenue soared 85%.
Brown founded Impossible a decade ago with the goal of combatting climate change by reducing meat consumption. Since 2016, it has sold meat substitutes that taste and look like the real thing and has expanded its distribution to tens of thousands of retailers across three continents and global restaurant chains like Starbucks and Burger King.
In a letter published on the company’s website, Brown said that Impossible’s growth has meant that the demands of leading the business have encroached on the time he has to lead strategic initiatives, share the company’s mission and guide research.
“Given the momentum of our business, our accelerating product pipeline, ongoing international expansion and the magnitude of our mission, the leadership demands of the commercial business will inevitably continue to grow,” Brown wrote.
So he’s handing over the reins to a food industry veteran. Starting April 4, McGuinness will be the company’s CEO and a director, and will report to the board. For the last eight years, he’s been with yogurt maker Chobani, helping the company expand into oat milk, coffee creamers and other categories.
Brown will continue working at Impossible as chief visionary officer and will report to the board. He will be tasked with leading research and technology innovation, strategic initiatives, public advocacy and the company mission. He will also remain a director on the company’s board.
“Peter and I will work together to lead Impossible and its long-term strategy, combining our complimentary strengths and experience,” Brown wrote in his letter.
McGuinness’s departure from Chobani comes as the yogurt maker reportedly delayed its initial public offering due to market conditions. The company initially filed to go public in November.
Meanwhile, Reuters reported nearly a year ago that Impossible was weighing going public through a merger with a special purpose acquisition company or an initial public offering. In that time, Beyond’s stock has taken a beating, with shares falling 63% since the initial report.