Change Foods, the precision fermentation dairy startup born in Australia, has just moved into BioCube San Jose, the Silicon Valley life science incubator and former home of Impossible Foods. Speaking to Green Queen Media, the food tech’s CMO Irina Gerry says the move to “plant our feet in California” will help it “build and scale a world-class food tech company”.
Change Foods has now set up its operations in BioCube San Jose, the Silicon Valley incubator that has graduated tech disruptors like Impossible Foods, Collagen Solutions and Genia. BioCube, which recently doubled in size, features 64,000 square feet of office space, research lab and state-of-the-art biotech equipment.
‘Scaling a world-class food tech company’
Sharing more about the decision to set up a base in California, Change Foods’ CMO Irina Gerry told Green Queen Media that the move was in line with its vision to become a global alternative protein player.
Change Foods, which was founded in 2020 in Australia by CEO David Bucca, uses precision fermentation to recreate real dairy proteins without the cow, and is now developing animal-free cheese that comes with a fraction of the environmental footprint.
Throughout the pandemic, the startup operated as a “Zoom company”, up until Bucca and VP Sacha Baker moved to San Francisco to meet with Gerry and COO Luis Espinoza for the first time. Fuelled by its recent $2.1 million seed funding, Gerry says the base in BioCube is part of Change Foods’ next stage of growth.
“The Bay Area has an incredible ecosystem for food tech companies including talent, infrastructure and capital. Despite our increased comfort with digital communication—we did start as a Zoom company after all—business is still based on relationships,” she told us.
“We knew that if we wanted to build and scale a world-class food tech company, planting our feet in California was going to accelerate a lot of our progress. With roots in Australia, we see ourselves as a global food company and expect to have a global network of partnerships and resources as we grow.”
“We are not just creating exciting new technology, we are creating a new mission-driven food company, and our R&D facility is very much an extension of our approach to building the company that cares about the people as much as it does about the planet,” added Bucca.
Launching precision fermentation cheese by 2023
Operating out of BioCube’s R&D facility will also fast-track Change Foods’ commercialisation plan. Right now, precision fermentation cheese has still yet to hit the market, with plant-based options currently dominating store shelves.
Change Foods, which decided to tackle the “holy grail of vegan foods”—cheese—as its first product, says it plans to launch by 2023. It’s a while away, but Gerry says that the startup wants to ensure that its final product is going to be a “game-changing animal-free cheese”.
“As with many companies in our space, scaling our ingredients and perfecting the cheese-making process takes time,” shared the GMO. “It’s one thing to produce milk proteins as proof of concept, it’s an entirely different ballgame to create animal-free cheese products for the mass market.”
US and Asia are the main targets
As for where Change Foods plans to launch, the US is the first and obvious choice. Alternative protein demand in the country has surged to an all-time high, with retail sales of plant-based foods doubling to $7 billion in 2020 as indication of the interest in more sustainable and healthier substitutes.
But with data pointing to 200% demand growth for alternative proteins in key Asian markets in the years to come, Change Foods has no plans to miss out on the opportunity in the region either.
“We chose the US market for initial launch because of its size, consumer acceptance and regulatory environment. We believe there is market disruption potential across the globe, however, and we are especially keen to bring our animal-free cheese to the APAC region, as we see tremendous market opportunity there as well,” Gerry told Green Queen Media.
So far, the signs are positive globally when it comes to consumer acceptance of animal-free cheese. A recent survey commissioned by fellow precision fermentation cheese food tech Formo, which bagged a record $50 million in its latest Series A, found more than 70% of consumers across the UK, US, Brazil, Germany and India would be willing to purchase animal-free cheese.
All images courtesy of Change Foods, unless otherwise credited.