General Mills Brand Bold Cultr Debuts As First Major U.S. Precision Fermentation Cheese Launch
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General Mills has become the first major food brand to dive into precision fermentation dairy. This week, it announced the launch of Bold Cultr—animal-free cheese made from Perfect Day’s whey.
“Bold Cultr is one of the world’s first next generation cheese alternatives, made with proteins created through precision fermentation – instead of animals,” Amanda Best, Corporate Communications associate at General Mills, said in a blog post on the company’s website.
The new cheese will be tested at select Hy-Vee supermarket locations across Minnesota, where the company is headquartered.
“The innovations coming out of our G-Works teams are an example of General Mills truly thinking differently about how we innovate. It starts with solving real consumer problems, developing breakthrough solutions – and then fueling those brands using the scale and capabilities of General Mills to accelerate their growth,” Doug Martin, Chief Disruptive Growth Officer, said in a statement. “This first product from Bold Cultr is proof positive that we’re finding new ways to test and learn outside of our core portfolio and in a whitespace of the food industry. I’m proud of the entrepreneurial spirit behind the Bold Cultr team, who took a big idea and is making it a reality.”
A dairy revolution
Bold Cultr is launching with a single product—plain cream cheese. But General Mills says more are in development including cheese slices and shreds.
The company was founded by Drake Ellingboe, Laura Engstrom, and Illeme Amegatcher. The co-founders say they were “on a mission to revolutionize animal products.”
“With the rise of plant-based and flexitarian diets, there is a need for a cheese alternative that has the same taste, texture and functionality as dairy cheese,” Engstrom said. “Many of the consumers we talked to want to be animal-free but cheese is holding them back – the alternatives aren’t doing what consumers want them to. We’re excited to reimagine what cheese can be and tackle this consumer problem head on.”
The move buoys a shift around alternatives to traditional dairy, eggs, and meat as companies are recreating these proteins not from plants, as is the case with Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, but through various technologies. There is cell culturing—a popular way to grow meat without the animal—which has seen an uptick in investments and interest. But it’s only approved for sale in Singapore at the moment as the novel tech brings questions and safety concerns.
Perfect Day’s dairy technology
Precision fermentation is similar to cultivated meat in that it doesn’t require the breeding or milking of cows to produce genetically identical dairy. Perfect Day, which produces the whey for Bold Cultr, works with microflora by giving it genetic instructions to produce protein identical to dairy milk. From there, the dairy proteins perform and taste just like traditional cow’s milk.
Perfect Day’s dairy has seen significant interest in recent months. It recently announced a million pint milestone for its Brave Robot ice cream. It also announced a pilot launch with Starbucks in the Pacific Northwest. Two locations are using Perfect Day milk for a limited time.
“When we first started this almost eight years ago, we had the simple goal of creating a way to make dairy without animals,” Perfect Day co-founder and CEO Ryan Pandya said in a statement. “We quickly realized that we could maximize our positive impact for the planet and the global food system by applying our technology and know-how across the supply chain.”
The partnership comes after Perfect Day’s most recent funding round—it closed a $350 million Series D in September, bringing its total funding to more than $750 million.
“We’re a part of a new generation of leaders coming of age, armed with the world’s best science, systemic thinking, and compassion,” said Pandya. “We’ve seen it in lifesaving vaccines, and we’re about to see it in food. We’re proud of all our leaders – every single employee at Perfect Day, our partners and investors – and can’t wait for this next chapter.”
A ‘bold’ future for General Mills
The precision fermentation dairy has big potential for General Mills. Its subsidiary brands include baking category leaders Betty Crocker, Bisquick, and Pillsbury. The brand also produces Yoplait yogurt products, and in select markets outside of the U.S. Häagen Dazs ice cream, which has already embraced dairy-free alternatives made from plants.
Bold Cultr says it uses “time-tested techniques” to blend and ferment its dairy, “just like cheesemakers have done for centuries.”
“The innovation behind Bold Cultr is truly bold. New food technology is enabling us to reimagine animal-free versions of conventional dairy products,” says Ellingboe. “There’s been a lot of anticipation from consumers and retailers, and we’re excited to get our first product out there to cheese-lovers looking for a better alternative option.”
Minneapolis-based Rise Bagel Co., will begin serving the animal-free cream cheese in January.