Is that meat for real?

Vegan foodmakers are attracting major investments from “foodie” billionaires such as Bill Gates.

Impossible Foods, maker of a vegan cheeseburger and a self-described "food science company," has attracted $US75 million in venture capital, reports Web publication Want China Times. Among its investors are Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Google Ventures and Li Ka-shing, Asia’s richest man, who has a net worth of $US31.9 billion.

This is Li Ka-shing's most recent investment, following a previous stake in JustMayo, an egg-free mayonnaise that is now sold in Hong Kong's Great Supermarket. Of the $US350 million his venture capital fund has invested so far, a major portion has been poured into food technology.

Patrick Brown, founder of Impossible Foods, is a Stanford University biologist and physician. His beef-flavoured vegan cheeseburger, made of 100% natural, vegetarian ingredients, mostly derived from spinach, wheat and soybean, contains more protein, iron and vitamins than a regular cheeseburger, he claims. It should make its debut on the US market in 2015.

Consumers seem increasingly convinced that fake meats are the real thing. An incident reported in an April 2014 edition of the New York Times eloquently brings home the point. Whole Food stores had inadvertently reversed labels on two salads, one made with real chicken and the other with plant protein substitute, made by Beyond Meat. By the time the error was corrected, consumers had been eating "fake" chicken without seeing any difference.

With regular consumers oblivious to the difference between "fake" and "real" meat, alternatives are winning over "foodie" billionaires, such as Bill Gates. "I've tasted a few, and they're very convincing," he says, as reported in the New York Times.