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San Francisco food tech New Culture is gearing up to launch its animal-free mozzarella cheese in late 2023 with partnering pizzerias. In an interview, co-founder Matt Gibson revealed that the company has made “numerous breakthroughs” in recent months to produce large quantities of casein protein using precision fermentation, which will enable it to create a cow-free mozzarella that tastes, bites and even stretches like the real deal.
New Culture, a startup using precision fermentation technology to make dairy proteins, says its first commercial product, animal-free mozzarella, will be ready to launch in 2023. Using its proprietary process, which involves sequencing DNA into microbes, feeding them and instructing them to express casein proteins, the company uses traditional cheesemaking techniques to create its ethical and sustainable mozzarella cheese containing real dairy casein made without cows.
According to the startup, thanks to its animal-free casein, the mozzarella will bear the textural and sensorial qualities and even stretchiness of its real cow-based counterpart – something that Gibson believes current plant-based products on the market haven’t managed to achieve.
Speaking to FoodNavigator, Gibson said: “Casein proteins are very difficult to make using precision fermentation, but we have made numerous breakthroughs over the last 18 months to produce substantial amounts of animal-free casein protein.”
“This ability to make significant quantities of casein protein has enabled us to be the only company 100% focused on mozzarella, as mozzarella is so reliant on casein.”
This ability to make significant quantities of casein protein has enabled us to be the only company 100% focused on mozzarella, as mozzarella is so reliant on casein.Matt Gibson, Co-Founder, New Culture
Unlike whey protein, which pioneer precision fermentation startup Perfect Day has developed and is incorporated into animal-free ice creams, New Culture says that casein enables the creation of more types of cheeses.
“Whey makes only limited cheeses such as ricotta and cream cheese. We can make delicious cheese with and without caseins in a micellar form,” explained Gibson, who co-founded the startup with food scientist Inja Radman.
Sharing more about the startup’s upcoming animal-free mozzarella product, the co-founder says that it will boast a “very clean label” with ingredients such as plant-based fats, sugar, salt and added vitamins and minerals.
In terms of the firm’s commercialisation plans, New Culture says that it will enter the market through foodservice approach, a strategy that a recent alternative protein report highlighted as a major driver of Impossible Foods’ and Oatly’s mainstream success, and is working with pizza restaurants in the Bay Area to launch its mozzarella.
“We will be going into food-service first where the majority of mozzarella is consumed,” said Gibson. “We will have a consumer-facing brand – think Impossible Foods – with co-branding on the products that are sold with New Culture cheese.”
We will be going into food-service first where the majority of mozzarella is consumed.Matt Gibson, Co-Founder, New Culture
To support the launch, New Culture is now in the midst of its Series A fundraise, which will primarily go towards scaling up, growing the team and pushing through GRAS regulatory approval. In 2019, the company bagged US$3.5 million seed funding led by Evolv Ventures, the Kraft Heinz-backed venture fund.
New Culture is part of the cohort of precision fermentation startups who believe that their novel replicas of animal proteins will enable the production of a new generation of alternatives that can truly compete with their conventional counterparts. In fact, New Culture came out of the same accelerator, IndieBio, as Clara Foods, the food tech using precision fermentation to “brew” bioidentical egg proteins.
Other players in the space who use the same tech to create dairy alternatives, aside from previously mentioned Perfect Day, include Tel Aviv-based Remilk and Imagindairy, U.S. and Australian startup Change Foods, Berlin’s Formo, British firm Better Dairy and Ghent-based Those Vegan Cowboys.
All images courtesy of New Culture.