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Eclipse Foods, the food tech that makes dairy products that are “indistinguishable” from its conventional counterparts, has raised US$12 million in its Series A funding round. Having already launched its vegan ice cream via retail channels, the company says it will look ahead to using the funding to expand its line of dairy-free offerings, from cheese to cream, which can rival the taste, texture and experience of real dairy at a competitive price.
Recently closing its US$12 million Series A financing led by Forerunner Ventures and backed by major figures like Honest Tea CEO Seth Goldman, Gmail’s co-developer Paul Buccheit and Alexis Ohanian, the co-founder of Reddit, San Francisco-based Eclipse Foods is setting its sights on expanding its line of dairy alternatives that it describes as “indistinguishable” from the real thing.
Founded in 2019 by former Good Food Institute innovation specialist Aylon Steinhart and Thomas Bowman, who previously worked as the product development director at plant-based egg maker Eat Just, Eclipse Foods’ first product that it has launched on the market is a vegan ice cream that “requires no sacrifice on taste, texture nor functionality”. Made from oats, corn, potato, cassava, organic cane sugar and non-GMO canola oil, the company’s patent-pending milk base is able to replicate the molecular composition of real dairy milk, but is far more sustainable by virtue of eliminating animals from the process, not to mention cruelty-free.
We’ve started with ice cream, but the base is a milk that functions like a dairy milk, which we use to formulate really incredible prototypes for cheese, cream, and so on.Aylon Steinhart, Co-Founder & CEO, Eclipse Foods
In addition, by using no nuts or soy – two ingredients that often feature in dairy-free substitutes – their products are not only suitable for lactose-intolerant folk who comprise as much as 65% of their domestic U.S. market, but are also free from the main allergens, though specific flavours may not be gluten-friendly as it contains traces of wheat.
Their ice creams are currently available via food service in high-end Instagrammable ice cream stores like New York’s OddFellows and Humphry Slocombe in San Francisco. But since the pandemic struck, the food tech has worked to bolster its retail channel, recently securing a distribution deal in the West Coast and has launched its own direct-to-consumer arm. Eclipse Foods has also reportedly received interest from more than 1,000 partners, among them global foodservice names, CPG brands and big tech offices.
“The reception has been incredible across all channels, and when you look at the velocities of our pints per store per week, we’re moving a lot faster than the other plant-based brands,” said co-founder and CEO Steinhart in a recent interview with FoodNavigator. “Ultimately we want to be in every freezer, from independent stores to Walmart.”
And with its Series A funding in the bag, Eclipse Foods has bold ambitions to expand its range of plant-based offerings that deliver on replicating the taste of a dairy-based cheeses, creams and yoghurts that consumers love and crave – though these plans will only come after it establishes a firm presence within the ice cream industry.
No company, in our eyes, had a novel or defensible approach to matching the taste, texture, and experience of real dairy at a comparable price. Until we met with Eclipse.Forerunner Ventures
“We’ve started with ice cream, but the base is a milk that functions like a dairy milk, which we use to formulate really incredible prototypes for cheese, cream, and so on,” Steinhart explained. “We sent the cheese prototypes to a few chefs and they are already asking when it will be on the market.”
Speaking about the unique potential of Eclipse to disrupt the unsustainable dairy industry, which is already reeling from the combined impact of the coronavirus and shifting consumer appetites, lead investor Forerunner Ventures wrote in a post: “No company, in our eyes, had a novel or defensible approach to matching the taste, texture, and experience of real dairy at a comparable price. Until we met with Eclipse.”
Another plant-based dairy startup focused on the ice cream market that has caught the eye of investors is Pink Albatross, a Madrid-based food tech that now boasts a group of ex-Nestlé directors among its core supporters. With its recently reformulated recipe, the brand says it hopes to deliver unexpected flavours and a new level of creaminess that will “win over any palette”.
Meanwhile, California-based Perfect Day is leveraging fermentation technology to create their animal-free ice creams, a feat that has won major traction, evident in the company’s record-breaking US$300 million in its Series C round earlier this year. The firm has since debuted a new brand, Brave Robot, which will bring to consumers ice creams made using its molecularly identical fermentation-based dairy proteins.
All images courtesy of Eclipse Foods.