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New Culture secures $25 million in an oversubscribed Series A to fuel the launch of its animal-free mozzarella cheese.
New Culture, the San Francisco startup developing animal-free cheese, has closed its Series A round with $25 million. The funds will go towards scaling up production and growing its team ahead of the launch of its precision fermentation mozzarella cheese in pizzerias by 2022.
The animal-free cheese brand’s oversubscribed Series A round was led by tech investor Ahren Innovation Capital and alternative protein investor CPT Capital. Other investors include the American food ingredients giant’s ADM Ventures, Dr. Oetker’s-backed Be8 Ventures, Kraft Heinz’s venture capital arm Evolv, SOSV, and S2G Ventures.
Launching animal-free mozzarella by 2022
New Culture says the funds will mainly go towards scaling up ahead of the launch of its flagship product, animal-free mozzarella, by 2022 in select pizzerias.
“We’re thrilled to close our Series A with an incredible syndicate of existing and new investors,” shared New Culture co-founders Gibson and Inja Radman. “We can’t wait to dive into this next phase of scale-up and production to offer our delicious, melty, animal-free cheese to pizza lovers all across the country.”
Unlike other plant-based cheeses on the market, the startup uses precision fermentation to replicate real casein protein found in conventional dairy, but without the need for any cows.
It then employs traditional cheesemaking techniques to create its analogue, which it says is “indistinguishable” from real cheese in terms of taste, texture, function, and nutritional value. By eliminating cows from the production process, however, animal-free cheese is far more sustainable and ethical.
Precision fermentation pioneer Perfect Day’s independent life-cycle assessment suggests that animal-free dairy products emit at least 85% and up to 97% fewer GHG emissions compared to conventionally farmed dairy.
Focusing on casein
While Perfect Day has used its technology to create animal-free whey, which has recently been incorporated into a cream cheese product under food tech’s Modern Kitchen brand, New Culture is using precision fermentation to replicate casein.
Casein is the ingredient that gives the cheesiness and melt of conventional cheeses, which allows New Culture to create its animal-free cheese with the same melt and stretch.
“Whey makes only limited cheeses such as ricotta and cream cheese. We can make delicious cheese with and without caseins in a micellar form,” Gibson has previously explained when he spoke about the startup’s launch plans back in June.
In addition to bearing the same taste and functionality of real mozzarella cheese, New Culture says that its cheese is cholesterol and lactose-free, which means pizzerias can now provide a more diverse range of options to cater to different consumer preferences.
Consumers want animal-free cheese
For investors, the startup’s focus on casein to make cheese is a stand-out quality among its other competitors in the precision fermentation space.
“Their focus on using that casein to produce animal-free cheese will allow consumers to enjoy everything they love about cheese (taste, melt, stretch, browning) without having to compromise, all while helping to make the world more sustainable,” commented Steve Sanger, general partner at Evolv Ventures.
Consumer research backs this up, showing that people are already interested in trying the novel alt-cheese product, which in many places hasn’t even hit shelves yet. One poll commissioned by precision fermentation mozzarella and ricotta maker Formo found that over 70% of shoppers are willing to try and buy animal-free cheese products.
Other startups focused on animal-free cheese include US-Australian firm Change Foods, which recently set up a base in Silicon Valley. General Mills has entered the space too, launching Bold Cultr, a brand that will use Perfect Day’s whey protein.
All images courtesy of New Culture.