Change Foods is on a mission to create the dairy products that consumers love, but without the environmental, ethical and health issues associated with traditional dairy production. Unlike many non-dairy alternatives made from plants, Change Foods wants to develop bio-identical dairy products that are indistinguishable from the real deal, and is the only startup in the Asia-Pacific region creating its dairy using precision fermentation technology. Armed with its latest pre-seed funding, first up for the food tech is to create real animal-free cheese that tastes, feels and melts the same way as your favourite fromage.
Founded in 2019 by David Bucca, an expert in the alternative proteins field as a founding director of industry think tank Food Frontier and formerly with plant-based meat brand Hungry Planet, Change Foods is using microbial precision fermentation to create real dairy products that are lactose-free – without harming animals, without hormones and antibiotics and at a fraction of the environmental footprint associated with traditional dairy farming.
As a U.S.-Australian food tech, Change Foods currently stands as the only fermented dairy company with a base of operations within Asia-Pacific.
Catching the eye of industry watchers, the food tech had already raised US$125,000 in angel investment in May 2020 from a number of notable investors, including Khailee Ng, the managing partner of Malaysia’s accelerator 500 Startups, impact investors Elisa Khong and Michal Klar, as well as Simon Newstead, the co-founder of Bite Society and Kinds of Grace.
We feel that precision fermentation as a technology is perfectly suited for recreating cheese and products that rely heavily on compounds found only in dairy which provide the taste, nutrition, texture, and functionality we all expect from animal-based versions.David Bucca, Founder & CEO of Change Foods
Now, the young startup has added to its funding with its latest oversubscribed pre-seed round closing in at US$875,000, exceeding its initial target of US$600,000 ahead of its plans to accelerate its U.S. prototype development. Among the high-profile list of investors participating in the company’s second funding round were Twitter’s Asia-Pacific VP Maya Hari, abillionveg founder Vikas Garg, CEO of renowned game developer Tantalus Tom Crago, as well as existing investors Newstead and Klar. The company also revealed backing from Google figures.
Speaking to Green Queen exclusively about the company’s pre-seed funding, Bucca said: “We’ve been blown away by the level of interest from the investor community around the world. We feel that precision fermentation as a technology is perfectly suited for recreating cheese and products that rely heavily on compounds found only in dairy which provide the taste, nutrition, texture, and functionality we all expect from animal-based versions.”
Explaining its decision to build its team in the U.S. for R&D and management, the founder added: “The U.S. is the perfect initial market to build a brand and launch products in this space, due in part to consumer trends and attitudes, technological infrastructure, and the regulatory environment,” but noted that there has been “a lot of support and engagement within APAC, with many opportunities for us in the region as we grow.”
Change Foods says precision fermentation dairy is around 10 times more efficient than a cow when it comes to converting feed into an end product for consumers – and reduced feed means less land, water usage and waste. It is also able to dramatically slash production time from the 2 to 3 years required to raise and milk cattle down to a matter of weeks.
No cold-chain logistics necessary, a longer shelf-life, localised brewing [and] greater stability in pricing and supply.David Bucca, Founder & CEO of Change Foods
“The savings are dramatic,” Bucca told Green Queen, who added that cleaner precision fermentation technology translates to a far more efficient and less vulnerable dairy supply chain. “No cold-chain logistics necessary, a longer shelf-life, localised brewing [and] greater stability in pricing and supply.”
“I strongly believe that precision fermentation technology can help address current problems with dairy production like climate change impact, water and land use and animal welfare,” said early investor Klar. “I believe they have one of the best teams in the world to tackle this challenge and are already proving it with their R&D milestones.”
First up for Change Foods is creating a bio-identical animal-free cheese that cooks, looks and tastes just like the real thing. It plans to use the recent pre-seed investment on scaling-up its precision fermentation technology, expansion of their core team, and developing initial cheese prototypes.
But in the long-run, the startup is geared to target other dairy products too in order to accelerate much-needed disruption to the massive US$442 billion dairy industry, which some experts say is now facing an existential crisis as the coronavirus pandemic wreaks havoc on its global supply chain.
Today, we are creating real, delicious cheese that melts the way it should. Tomorrow, creamy milk that pours like normal, yogurt as smooth as silk, and ice cream bursting with flavour.David Bucca, Founder & CEO of Change Foods
To that end, the startup has ambitions to raise a US$4 million seed round next year, which will go towards further growing its technical and support team, dairy formulation R&D and the creation of its cheeses, from cheddar to mozzarella.
“[I] cannot wait to try their tasty and nutritious cheese,” Klar told Green Queen.
“Today, we are creating real, delicious cheese that melts the way it should,” Bucca told Green Queen. “Tomorrow, creamy milk that pours like normal, yogurt as smooth as silk, and ice cream bursting with flavour.”
Change Foods hopes to commercialise its products B2C via its food truck and retail outlets, as well as partnering with foodservice chains in 2023.
All images courtesy of Change Foods.