So far, we usually find vegan cheese brands that come from small scale or indie companies. But this cheese might be available commercially in the future soon. Kraft Heinz has invested $3.5 million in a vegan cheese startup. And not just any vegan cheese startup, this one is trying to make the perfect dairy-free mozzarella.
The seed funding round was led by Evolv Ventures, Kraft Heinz’s $100 million venture capital fund. Other investors in the round include Bee Partners, Mayfield, CPT Capital, Boost VC and SOSV who followed on after its initial pre-seed investment through IndieBio.
“We’re excited to lead the seed round for New Culture,” said Steve Sanger, a general partner at Evolv Ventures. “We have been impressed by what the team accomplished during IndieBio in a short period of time and look forward to supporting their vision to produce animal-free dairy cheese. This is another example of our focus on investing in the leading companies across the food value chain.”
New Culture, the name of the biotech startup, makes vegan cheese as realistically as possible using fermentation. The company gives the yeast some genetic instructions to produce dairy proteins. After they cultivate microbes, they begin producing proteins in huge scale so that it can be applied to various recipes.
Creating regular vegan cheese might not be that hard. But making a vegan mozzarella cheese that tastes and has the same stringy texture isn’t a simple task. Inja Radman, a molecular biologist and co-founder at New Culture, said that dairy protein’s absence is why vegan cheese “doesn’t work.”
“It lacks the crucial component that gives dairy cheese its signature properties, and that is the casein micelle, a supramolecular structure of dairy proteins that are found only in mammalian milk. We are developing the technology to make those casein micelles without involving animals in the process,” said Radman.
Matt Gibson, co-founder at New Culture, added, “We want to disrupt one of the oldest and largest food industries in the world by producing a better dairy cheese for anyone to enjoy. Whether you’re a cheese lover, lactose-intolerant, vegan, environmentally-conscious or health-conscious. The capital, knowledge and network our investors bring to New Culture enables us to begin doing that.”
Currently, the value of global dairy cheese market is between $100 billion to $118 billion. And according to a recent report from Technavio, global vegan cheese market is expected to reach $1.11 billion between 2019-2023.
The biotech startup believes that their realistic vegan cheese will appeal to all consumers that care about the environment such as vegans, vegetarians, flexitarians, environmentalists, or people who simply want to be healthier. Radman said that they did a double-blind test of their mozzarella against real cheese, and they got really positive results.
“We’re really excited about what the next 18 to 24 months hold for New Culture. We are experiencing one of the most significant and important food movements of our time. We are fortunate to be in a position to join other fantastic companies in building a more efficient and sustainable global food industry,” said Gibson.
“It’s fantastic to have the support of our investors as we look to grow the company and scale New Culture’s unique fermentation technology,” Gibson added.
The rise of milk-free dairy products
As you already know, dairy-free products are everywhere now. We can find vegan cheese, milk, yogurt, and ice cream quite easily. And since there seems to be a demand in that area, dairy companies want to step their game up and they have begun to produce lactose-free products. Plant-based dairy product market is growing steadily, and now there are more selling points to the products such as vitamin/mineral fortification, higher protein content and reduced sugar.
DuPont’s Danisco has tried to contribute in this market and they offer a line of VEGE cultures. They’re specially formulated for the plant-based fermented products market. These cultures are available for a wide array of plant-based raw materials like soy, coconut, nuts, oats, maize, rice, fruits and vegetables.
Perfect Day is a startup that has launched its limited-edition vegan and lactose-free ice cream made with flora-based dairy protein. The company specializes in the research, development and production of animal-free dairy, and they’ve released products for consumers to taste.
There are proteins in the ice cream, and although it’s flora-based, they’re identical to those found in cow’s milk. Those proteins are created through a fermentation process similar to the manufacture of vitamins and amino acids.
And not just that, Parmela Creamery, specializing in cultured plant-based cheeses, has raised over US$1 million. What’s unique is that even though the company has dairy-free cashew milk, they make their cheeses using traditional culturing and aging, which allows the products to develop their own authentic, rich and creamy flavors.
As for the products, Parmela has a range of cheeses that include meltable slices, meltable shreds, block forms, spreadable forms, nacho cheese and alfredo sauces.
US yogurt maker Chobani debuted its first plant-based dairy products containing only natural ingredients. They make everything even more healthier by lowering sugar in the yogurt and each serving is packed with probiotics. Chobani aims to capitalize on consumers’ growing interest in plant-based alternatives to products traditionally derived from animal proteins.
If everything goes well, we might find vegan dairy products in supermarket shelves sooner than we think. What do you think?