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It’s official: conventional dairy is out, and alternative dairy is in. As consumers become increasingly concerned about the health, sustainability and safety of traditional dairy products, more and more shoppers are turning to milks made from plants. But some dairy lovers remain unconvinced by the taste of plant-based substitutes and are in search of alternatives that rival the taste and functionality of animal-based milk, cheese, butter, yogurt and cream. There are a fair few cell-based companies working on creating milk without animals but there’s a third batch of food technology that doesn’t get nearly enough airtime: the microbial fermentation pioneers. (Read our interview with fermented egg maker Clara Foods CEO for a more in-depth explanation of this technology.)
Below, we introduce 6 startups that are disrupting the way we produce dairy from across the globe and creating alternative dairy products that are identical to their animal counterparts, but without the cruelty and environmental footprint. Many of these companies work directly with food manufacturers so you may not have heard of them as they don’t necessarily launch as consumer brands, but they are undoubtedly changing how and what we eat for the better.
1. Perfect Day (U.S.)
Founders: Ryan Pandya & Perumal Gandhi
Headquarters: Emeryville, California, U.S.
Perfect Day has developed slaughter-free dairy proteins using fermentation, which allows the company to replicate the molecular proteins produced by cows in labs without the environmental impact associated with traditional dairy farming, or the animal welfare concerns. The food tech’s biotechnology has attracted major investment, most recently announcing an expansion of its Series C round to a whopping US$300 million following a second tranche, which will enable the startup to accelerate its impact through partnerships with established cheese, milk and ice cream brands. Founders Pandya and Gandhi have also recently launched Urgent Company, a new sustainable food company that will offer a line of animal-free ice creams made using Perfect Day’s alt dairy proteins.
2. Change Foods (Australia & U.S.)
Founder: David Bucca
Headquarters: Melbourne, Australia & San Francisco, California, U.S.
Change Foods is bioengineering the microorganisms that can produce dairy proteins and fats and formulating them into real animal-free cheese and yogurt products that will not compromise on taste, functionality or texture. All of its products are lactose-free, hormone-free and hypoallergenic, making it a much safer and healthier choice for the majority of the population, particularly lactose-intolerant individuals. According to the brand, their product reduces energy consumption by 65%, requires 98% less water and produces 84% fewer carbon emissions compared to traditional dairy.
3. New Culture (U.S.)
Founders: Matt Gibson & Inja Radman
Headquarters: San Francisco, California, U.S.
New Culture was founded by New Zealanders who wanted to revolutionise the way dairy products are being manufactured. Their focus is on using microbial fermentation to produce casein, a protein that coagulates to give certain dairy products such as mozzarella cheese its classic stretchy texture. With this technology, the startup’s first product will be an animal-free version of mozzarella that tastes and bites just like the real version but made without any cows.
4. Legendairy Foods (Germany)
Founders: Raffael Wohlgensinger & Dr. Britta Winterberg
Headquarters: Berlin, Germany
Legendairy Foods is on a mission to “realign your morals and your consumption” by developing ethical yet delicious milk proteins produced without cows. The startup mixes microorganisms with sugar, then uses fermentation to produce milk proteins that can then be used as the building blocks for dairy products.
5. Better Dairy (U.K.)
Founders: Jevan Nagarajah & Christopher Reynolds
Headquarters: London, U.K.
Better Dairy is using yeast fermentation and synthetic biology to “brew” animal-free milk, cheeses, yogurt and ice creams that consumers love without having to use animals and in an efficient way that doesn’t deplete the planet’s resources. Their first prototypes are molecularly identical to traditional dairy and can be seamlessly integrated into existing supply chains and used in any recipe that calls for dairy.
6. Remilk (Israel)
Founders: Aviv Wolff & Ori Cohavi
Headquarters: Tel Aviv, Israel
Remilk is a food tech using microbes to produce the key building block ingredients of milk, and are currently working on developing the technology to make a milk alternative that rivals cow’s milk in terms of flavour, nutritional composition and functionality. Remilk’s product can also be used to produce other animal-free dairy products, from cheese to butter, like the mozzarella ball pictured above.
Lead image courtesy of 123rf.