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Lyon-based Bon Vivant has announced its intention to bring cow-free dairy protein to the European market. The precision fermentation biotech has recently scooped €4 million to progress its R&D. Alliance for Impact, High Flyers Capital, Kima Ventures, Founders Future, and Picus Capital all participated in the funding round.
Bon Vivant hopes to become a B2B supplier of alt-protein and to democratise dairy. Its chief mission is to offer large manufacturers a way to recreate realistic dairy without relying on oat, soy, or almond. The startup is confident in its ability to maintain connections to French gastronomic heritage while shifting to a plant-based future.
France’s need for precision fermentation
Bon Vivant claims that plant milk has traditionally not catered to French cooking, leading to less uptake in flexitarian diets. Precision fermentation offers an alternative to animal farming, reduces suffering, and produces proteins that are indistinguishable from conventional dairy. It also builds on techniques used in one of France’s renowned industries: winemaking.
“The principle is to use yeasts as the wine or beer industries do,” Hélène Briand, co-founder of Bon Vivant told Les Echos.
“Bon Vivant programs these yeasts to produce milk proteins, then cultivates them in a vegetable culture medium so that they ferment. Then, we filter this culture medium in order to separate the yeast from the proteins. We thus obtain a pure milk protein, 100% identical to those produced by the cow but without lactose, without cholesterol, without antibiotics and with a much lower environmental impact.”
Planning to succeed
Bon Vivant is currently at the initial lab development stage, having been founded in late 2021. An initial milk protein has been successfully developed, allowing for optimism that the company can progress quickly.
The founding team is already looking ahead to potential strategic partnerships, scale-up costings and future funding rounds. Citing California’s Perfect Day as a source of inspiration, Bon Vivant is aware that Europe has seen comparatively little investment in the precision fermentation sector, compared to the U.S. and Israel, but that is beginning to change.
The startup has already bagged €4 million for ongoing trials. It is now planning a Series A for the near future, which co-founder Stéphane Mac Millan envisages reaching eight figures. Such funding is considered essential, given expected production costs and the need to invest in specialist equipment suitable for scaled manufacturing. The next hurdle will be gaining approval for its cow-free dairy proteins.
Similar to cultivated meat, precision fermentation faces a somewhat uphill battle in gaining regulatory approval in the E.U. As more startups enter the arena and major foreign companies, including Perfect Day, seek European Food Safety Authority approval to enter the commercial space, this is hoped to simplify.
Next steps for Bon Vivant
With an initial prototype and funding in place, continued R&D and development are top priorities. The startup has noted that unless it can perfectly replicate the taste and texture of conventional dairy, its model simply won’t work. Once these issues are ironed out, it plans to approach food industry giants in earnest to form working relationships. Mac Millan claims to have already begun dialogues with most major manufacturers, including Danone and Yoplait.
Animal-free dairy leaders
Israel and the U.S. appear to still be leading the charge for cow-free dairy proteins created using precision fermentation. This week it was revealed that Perfect Day has just scored another win, with its whey being used in Betterland Foods’ new layered chocolate bar. The move signals yet another sector that Perfect Day is powering, following on from milk, cheese, ice cream, and protein powder.
Over in Israel, Remilk announced closure of a successful Series B that generated $120 million in fresh investment. The startup is now valued at $325 million with commercialisation hotly anticipated for this year. Fellow Israeli startup Imagindairy scooped $13 million in November last year to build out its team ahead of more pre-launch research.
A little closer to home, in the U.K., Mighty is looking to develop its precision fermentation milk drinks. The company garnered £4.5 million in December last year to expedite entry to market.
Lead photo by Pixabay at Pexels.