Dana Wagner, chief legal officer, Impossible Foods

Wagner shares how the Counsel team at Impossible Foods is supporting the company in its mission to create a scalable and sustainable food supply with plant-based alternatives to meat products.

I have four teams in my organisation. One is the legal team – the lawyers, paralegals and individuals who do the strictly legal work. We also have a government relations team, a regulatory affairs team, and a team called environmental health and safety. There is a lot of overlap among those functions and we call ourselves collectively the Counsel team because we’re all involved in providing counsel advice and advocacy for the company.

Part of what we do is help the company to navigate the regulations that govern the food supply and the presentation and marketing of foods to the public, both in the US and internationally. Because we are creating novel products with science, we need to think about IP on a regular basis and think about protecting that in a responsible way. And, as we grow, we enter into heavily negotiated business partnerships, and we do a lot of work to support international expansion.

Just in the past couple of weeks, we entered retail for the first time. We’re selling our products in grocery stores directly to consumers in a few markets, and that will expand. Selling to consumers through that channel in stores, rather than through restaurants, changes the nature of our relationship with some of our customers, and we’ll have to make sure we continue doing a good job navigating this as our business evolves.

In the past year or so, we’ve launched in Hong Kong, Macau, and Singapore, and we want to be in more places as well. The thesis of our company is that asking people to change their culinary preferences because of the importance to the environment, climate and our ecosystem is not very effective, so we wanted to create food from plants that satisfies people’s existing tastes rather than asking them to change their tastes. Taste in food varies from region to region and certainly from country to country, and a product that works well with the food culture of one country may not work as well with the food culture of another. One of the reasons we launched in relatively small markets like Hong Kong, Macau, and Singapore to begin with was to see how our products were handled by chefs and greeted by consumers in other food cultures and other cuisines.

Any company with a wonderful mission attracts and motivates people and engenders a certain camaraderie among its workers that I think is very energising. I’m an example of that: I have the fortune of having had a good professional experience prior to Impossible Foods and was considering a variety of options, many of which would have been later-stage companies with less risk and higher guaranteed compensation than joining a biotechnology start-up in Redwood City. But I fell in love with the team and the mission, and this is what I want to be doing. A lot of other people on my team and at the company in general feel similarly.