Could F&B Giant General Mills Be Planning To Launch An Animal-Free Dairy Cheese Brand?

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General Mills is gearing up to enter the precision fermentation alt-protein industry, signalling the move with a new brand, Renegade Creamery. While the food giant has not confirmed the move, Renegade describes its product as ​​”creating milk proteins without the milk”, suggesting that the animal-free dairy is on the cards—and the brand’s first product appears to be cheese. 

American food giant General Mills could soon be entering the rising precision fermentation space, establishing a new brand in March called Renegade Creamery. Though no specific details about the launch or the creation of the brand have been released by General Mills, Renegade has confirmed it makes real dairy proteins “without the cow” using precision fermentation.

It marks the first time an established food corporation has made the move to use precision fermentation technology, a space currently led by startups like Perfect Day, whose bioidentical whey proteins have been used to make animal-free ice creams and cheese sauce for Obama’s recent birthday bash

Renegade Creamery

Renegade’s website showcases animal-free shredded cheddar, cream cheese and cheddar slices. (Image: Renegade Creamery)

On its website, Renegade Creamery reveals that animal-free cheese will be its flagship product. “Fermentation is what makes cheese, cheese. We make ours by re-creating milk proteins without the milk, natural microflora, and our signature, artisan fermentation process,” it says. 

There are three products displayed: cream cheese, shredded cheddar and cheddar slices. All will contain real dairy proteins that are non-animal—they have been produced using microbial hosts that act as ‘cell factories’. While the cream cheese will contain cow-free whey, the shreds and slices will contain animal-free casein. 

Aside from Perfect Day, other players using precision fermentation to make dairy products without the cow include New Culture, which is set to launch its animal-free mozzarella on the market by 2023, and U.S.-Australia-based Change Foods, also focused on cheese and set to expand its operations after bagging fresh seed funding in June. 

Renegade Creamery will use precision fermentation to make dairy proteins without cows. (Image: Renegade Creamery)

Formo is another startup making cheese its priority, while names like Remilk and Imagindairy, British firm Better Dairy, and Ghent-based Those Vegan Cowboys, are making milk and other dairy products using precision fermentation

General Mills takes the lead

Needless to say, the rising precision fermentation space is one to watch within alt-protein and there’s no shortage of startup talent. But the launch of Renegade, a “development brand within the General Mills organisation”, means that even established industry giants are taking note. 

On its website, Renegade says the brand will enable General Mills to “connect with consumers in order to better understand their needs and produce solutions that provide value.” 

And it’s true—recent consumer studies show that shoppers do want animal-free dairy. While there are numerous plant-based alternatives on the market, from cashew cheese to coconut yogurt and almond milk, one poll suggests that consumers, whether mainstream flexitarians or committed vegans, are interested in the launch of precision fermentation-powered products. 

Animal-free cheese developed by Formo using precision fermentation tech. (Image: Formo)

The study, commissioned by Formo, found over 70% of consumers said they would be willing to try and buy novel animal-free cheese products. The results were consistent across the board, by age group and by country, which in the global study included the UK, US, Brazil, Germany and India.

While General Mills eyes precision fermentation, fellow CPG major Nestlé is now exploring cell-based alternative protein, after ramping up its plant-based offerings like vegan KitKats and meatless burgers under Sweet Earth. 

Last month, the Swiss conglomerate announced a partnership with Future Meat, an Israeli cell-ag food tech, to explore how cultured meat ingredients could be integrated into its product lines or to create new climate-friendly proteins for consumers. 


Lead image courtesy of Renegade Creamery.


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