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Clara Foods, the San Francisco-based food tech fermenting animal-free proteins, has teamed up with ZX Ventures, the innovation arm of the world’s largest brewing company AB InBev. The new R&D partnership will be tasked to “unlock precision fermentation” and its potential to “brew” egg proteins without chickens on a large scale.
The new partnership with ZX Ventures, the investment and innovation firm under the Belgian beer corporation, which owns the likes of Budweiser, Stella Artois and Corona, will enable Clara Foods to “unlock the possibilities of precision fermentation at large scale,” the firm said on Wednesday (April 21). Drawing on AB InBev’s expertise in food-grade fermentation and downstream processing, Clara Foods plans to develop and scale its chickenless egg proteins.
Eggs, one of the most widely available and affordable sources of protein globally, remains a category ripe for alternative protein disruption. Current plant-based alternatives famously include Eat Just’s mung bean-based egg substitute, but Clara Foods wants to recreate egg proteins that are identical to its animal counterpart on a molecular level – it would taste, look, function like the real thing.
More than one trillion eggs are consumed globally every year and corporate commitments for cage-free aren’t enough.Arturo Elizondo, Co-Founder & CEO, Clara Foods
“Humanity needs solutions that match the scale and urgency of our problems. Since day one, Clara has been on a mission to accelerate the world’s transition to animal-free protein, starting with the egg,” said Arturo Elizondo, CEO and co-founder of Clara Foods.
“More than one trillion eggs are consumed globally every year and corporate commitments for cage-free aren’t enough. We’re thrilled to be partnering with the world’s largest fermentation company,” Elizondo continued. “This partnership is a major step towards realising our vision.”
Teaming up with a centuries-old firm will bring in vital know-how, while the Bay Area startup will offer its technological leadership in the precision fermentation space. The technology that Clara Foods builds on top of age-old fermentation techniques, such as cheesemaking and beer-brewing, and even making insulin for diabetics.
This partnership is a major step towards realising our vision.Arturo Elizondo, Co-Founder & CEO, Clara Foods
Precision fermentation, in particular, uses microbial hosts as “factories” where cells can produce specific ingredients. A number of food techs have used this technique, including Impossible Foods, who used it to make its famous heme ingredient, and Perfect Day, who has recreated real, animal-free dairy whey proteins without the need for any cows.
“Meeting the increased demand for food requires breakthrough solutions built on collaboration and innovation that spans several industry domains – both old and new. The ancient and natural process of fermentation can be further harnessed to help meet future demands in our global food system,” explained Patrick O’Riordan, founder and CEO of BioBrew, a tech platform within ZX Ventures.
“We look forward to exploring the development of highly-functional, animal-free egg proteins with Clara Foods in a scalable, sustainable and economically viable manner.”
Meeting the increased demand for food requires breakthrough solutions built on collaboration and innovation that spans several industry domains – both old and new.Patrick O’Riordan, Founder & CEO, BioBrew
Elizondo added that working with the brewing giant and its innovation groups would “truly allow us to harness our novel technology and bring it to scale,” and that the “possibilities are immense”.
The news comes just weeks after Clara Foods announced a partnership with food and ingredients giant Ingredion to roll out the world’s first animal-free pepsin, which would eliminate the need to slaughter pigs for the enzyme often used in food and pharmaceutical products. Clara Foods’ bioidentical version still bears the functional qualities of its porcine counterpart, but is Kosher, Halal, antibiotic-free, vegan and has a far smaller environmental impact.
Lead image courtesy of Only Crumbs Remain.