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As we wrap up 2022, let’s take a look back over some of the breaking headlines that solidified precision fermentation as a major pillar in the world of alternative protein. Here are some of the top stories within the space, from animal-free milk landing in Singapore to mark an Asia-wide first, to getting vocal support from renowned environmental journalist George Monboit.
1. Dairy giants bet big on precision fermentation
This year, we saw the world’s largest dairy brands place their bets on precision fermentation. In October, New Zealand’s Fonterra, which supplies nearly a third of the world’s milk, partnered with bioscience firm Royal DSM to kickstart a precision fermentation startup making sustainable dairy proteins. Just one month later in November, the Bel Group–makers of iconic cheeses like Babybel and Boursin–began a collaboration with French startup Standing Ovation to start producing new alt-cheeses through microbial fermentation. Bel has since announced that three of its brands, Nurishh and The Laughing Cow, will expand its animal-free offerings too using Perfect Day’s precision fermentation tech.
2. Precision fermentation milk lands in Asia
2022 marked the year when animal-free milk made its way to Asia for the first time. This December, Singapore residents are able to grab a carton of Very Dairy, a brand launched by Californian food tech Perfect Day. Available in three flavours–plain, chocolate and strawberry–the brand new products are dairy-identical thanks to the microflora that are engineered to recreate real milk proteins in a much more sustainable way. This is mere months after the precision dairy pioneer brought its animal-free dairy ice cream Coolhaus to the island nation.
Outside of Asia, the next regions to watch in the coming months for product launches include Israel, whose homegrown startup Imagindairy closed a $28M seed round in May to expedite its “guilt-free dairy solutions”. There’s also Australia, where CSIRO-backed Eden Brew bagged $5M in June to bring its animal-free milk (and ice cream!) to consumers.
3. India welcomes its own animal-free dairy startup
Animal-free milk proteins made its way to India this year, with Phyx44 becoming the country’s first startup focused on this technology. Based in Bangalore and founded by IIT alummi and ex-Googler Bharath Bakaraju, the company, which boasts a gender-equal technical team of PhD scientists, will use precision fermentation to reproduce whey and casein proteins to make everything from yogurt to paneer. Not only a first for India, the startup stands out as one of the few full-stack players in the sector that is also targeting animal-free fats, in addition to whey and casein proteins. It closed a $1.2M seed round in November.
4. And so does China
China also opened doors to the precision fermentation dairy sector this year. In August, Changing Bio came out of stealth mode with a big bang, announcing a record $22M Series A, the second largest alt-protein funding round in the country. The food tech has reportedly already dished out animal-free dairy samples and is now building a 9,000 square-meter facility in Qingdao.
5. George Monbiot joins the precision fermentation fight
The precision fermentation food sector won vocal support from climate activists and renowned environmental writer George Monbiot this year. Launched at November’s COP27, Monbiot and the group Reboot Food prioritised a focus on “brewed proteins” such as precision fermentation in its manifesto to usher in a sustainable and just food system for the world.
6. Sports nutrition giant MyProtein says yes to Perfect Day’s animal-free whey…and more of the pioneer’s wins
MyProtein, the ubiquitous sports nutrition and fitness brand, announced new products made using Perfect Day’s animal-free whey. In August, the company revealed Whey Forward, its new co-branded line of proteins that delivers on performance and taste, but is far more sustainable and ethical compared to conventionally produced whey protein. This was just the latest in a slew of 2022 wins for the sector’s pioneer food tech Perfect Day, which continued to make big moves in the following month when it rolled out Nth Bio. The platform will offer its expertise and collaboration opportunities with other companies, paving the way for precision fermentation to tap into new product categories in the future. Just months later in December, the firm acquired India’s Sterling Biotech, one of the largest global gelatin producers, signaling that it may be eyeing fermented gelatin next.
7. The Every Co. cracks its animal-free eggs into macarons & more
It wasn’t just a big year for Perfect Day, but for The Every Co. too, another early name in the precision fermentation industry. After its mega rebrand from Clara Foods late last year, The Every Co. proved its animal-free egg white protein product, Every EggWhite, in March. It debuted an impressive line-up of macarons made with its product in collaboration with renowned patisserie brand Chantal Guillon. Then in October, the food tech entered the $260 billion alcoholic beverage market, debuting the world’s first precision fermentation egg protein-boosted hard juice in partnership with Pulp Culture. While The Every Co. was the first to the chickenless race, it is by no means the only one, as this year we saw Onego Bio enter the playing field with a $11M seed round in February. The Finnish VTT offshoot startup’s first product will be an animal-free “bioalbumen” egg white protein.
8. New innovations in alternative ingredients: bovine lactoferrin
TurtleTree, the biotech based in both Singapore and California, managed to unveil LF+ in August this year after 18 months of development. It is the world’s first precision fermentation bovine lactoferrin, a sustainably created identical protein that opens up possibilities in the adult nutrition, sports nutrition and infant formula industries.
9. Animal-free casein factory lands in the Middle East
In October, alt-dairy startup Change Foods announced a new collaboration with the UAE’s KEZAD Group to start building a commercial production plant in Abu Dhabi. With a capacity of 1.2M litres, the upcoming fermentation factory is slated to churn out enough animal-free casein milk proteins to replace that of 10,000 cows and will supply the Middle East and Asian markets.
10. We get closer to animal-free fats
The precision fermentation space inches towards making animal-free fats a reality, after Aussie startup Nourish Ingredients bagged AU$45M in a Series A in October. The funds will go towards developing microbial fermentation fats and oils, a key ingredient to take alternative proteins in the plant-based and cultivated sectors to a new level in terms of taste. Another company making moves in the animal-free fat segment is Melt&Marble. The Swedish startup scored €5M in a seed round earlier in May, which will fuel its ambitions to commercially launch its alternative “beef-like” fat custom-made to upgrade the taste and texture of plant-based meats.
Lead image courtesy of Bel Group.