Strive Nutrition Taps TurtleTree’s Animal-Free Lactoferrin for Immunity Beverage & Protein Powder

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Kansas-based Strive Nutrition has partnered with Singapore’s TurtleTree to announce an immunity beverage and protein powder made from the latter’s precision-fermented lactoferrin.

As part of a multi-year partnership, Strive Nutrition will roll out products using TurtleTree’s LF+ ingredient, a lactoferrin protein made from precision fermentation, in Q1 next year.

Strive is targeting the adult and sports nutrition markets with an immunity-support beverage and a ready-to-mix protein powder, both of which contain LF+. They also feature Californian animal-free whey producer Perfect Day’s beta-lactoglobulin protein, extending a supply deal that was first established in 2022 for its FreeMilk line.

This makes it the first time a commercially available product will have precision-fermented proteins from two separate companies.

Lactoferrin, a whey protein found in human milk and bovine colostrum just after birth, is a highly sought-after protein with iron-regulating properties that encourage peak athletic performance. But the limited supply and high costs mean 60% of the protein is used in infant nutrition, and much of the rest for supplementation.

“TurtleTree’s LF+ protein is very unique and a great product differentiator. We are good friends of the company, and share the same vision for the future of nutrition and food,” Strive CEO Dennis Cohlmia told Green Queen.

Targeting the booming functional beverage market

turtletree lactoferrin
Courtesy: TurtleTree

While only 12% of Americans say they consume functional beverages, 83% use drinks with at least one functional claim. It speaks to consumers’ increased attention on mental and physical wellness, which has become just as important as financial health and job security for nearly half of global consumers, according to research firm NielsenIQ (NIQ).

Numerator data suggests that a third of consumers are prioritising physical health this year, a 13-point increase from 2023. Meanwhile, research by the International Food Information Council reveals that 67% of consumers tried to consume more protein last year, and NIQ adds that the vegan diet is up by 9% in dollar sales versus a year ago.

This is where ingredients like LF+ come in. TurtleTree precision-fermented protein is certified vegan (though it is still a dairy allergen and will be labelled as such, per FDA rules), and can bind iron, which improves red blood cell production, iron circulation and stored iron levels, and supports advanced immune function.

This is key for endurance athletes, 30-50% of whom are affected by iron deficiency. It is the iron-rich content that gives the protein a reddish hue, earning it its ‘pink gold’ nickname. Lactoferrin additionally regulates gut health, maintaining microbiota diversity and supporting intestinal barrier function.

But it takes at least 10,000 litres of milk to produce just 1kg of purified lactoferrin. This means higher prices, with the protein retailing for $750-$1,500 per kg. TurtleTree, the first company to commercialise animal-free lactoferrin, has scaled up enough to reach price parity with bovine lactoferrin.

It has indicated that its clients are interested in purchasing $500M worth of LF+ over the next five years. Last month, it announced a collaboration with Cadence Performance Coffee for a line of cold brew espresso shots infused with its animal-free lactoferrin powder.

It’s extending its presence in the functional beverage space with Strive’s immunity-support drink, aiming to get a slice of a market whose sales have hiked by 54% from March 2020-24, and which now makes up 10% of the US non-alcoholic drink sector.

TurtleTree in talks with pet food and skincare players

turtletree precision fermentation
Courtesy: TurtleTree

The Strive-TurtleTree immunity beverage will come as an 8oz carton and contain 12-15g of Perfect Day’s whey and 250mg of LF+. Moreover, it will have a mix of 23 essential vitamins and minerals to enhance the product’s standing among ageing adults.

“We expect the LF+ beverage to be available through Amazon and Walmart, as well as in Drug & Specialty retailers across the US,” said Cohlmia, adding that more retail partnerships are on the cards as buyers sample the product over the coming months.

The protein powder, meanwhile, will likely be available in chocolate and other flavours, although “collaboration and final design” are still in the works, according to TurtleTree co-founder and CEO Fengru Lin. “The powder will include fermentation-derived whey, cacao and other vitamins and minerals,” she told Green Queen.

“We created these products for a first launch into adult nutrition for consumers who are concerned about longevity and wellness. The health attributes of bovine lactoferrin and colostrum are extensive and becoming more known to the general public,” Cohlmia stated. “Now, we can have an animal-free lactoferrin with prebiotics that is made through precision fermentation, vegan-certified, and is cruelty-free.”

“We believe that the success of this LF+ Adult Nutrition & Immune Supporting Beverage will lead to many more SKUs combining and showcasing precision-fermented proteins down the road,” he said when asked about future collaborations. “In five years, we hope to be the leader in precision fermentation CPG, foodservice and healthcare products. We already have formulas created for a range of products containing novel proteins for foodservice and retail channels.”

TurtleTree has indicated that LF+ can be used in a wider range of applications, from infant formula, supplements, and functional beverages to protein powders, meal replacements for the elderly, and animal-free dairy products. And the focus over the next 12 months is to expand its partnership pipeline to showcase these applications.

“We have interest [from] a number of different industries including pet food, skincare, plant care and more to utilise our LF+ as an ingredient,” said Lin.

She added that the company is, “as with most startups”, looking to raise funds. TurtleTree has secured around $40M in investment to date. “Our most immediate need would be for continuing to scale orders with our contract manufacturers to deliver the pink gold to our customers, and continued research and development for company growth.”


  • Anay Mridul

    Anay is Green Queen's resident news reporter. Originally from India, he worked as a vegan food writer and editor in London, and is now travelling and reporting from across Asia. He's passionate about coffee, plant-based milk, cooking, eating, veganism, food tech, writing about all that, profiling people, and the Oxford comma.

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