Cow-free dairy is here and could shake up the future of animal and plant-based dairy
Only this dairy product was different. It was not a cow or soybean or nut product. The main ingredient of this milk was created by microorganisms in a laboratory, turned into delicious and easy-to-understand food, and served to hungry reporters.
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In recent months, dozens of companies have sprung up to develop dairy proteins made by yeasts and fungi. Among them, Perfect Day, a California-based dairy company, has this extraordinary spread. The company’s products hit stores in the form of yogurt, cheese and ice cream and are often labeled as “animal-free.” The burgeoning industry, which calls itself ‘precision fermentation’, has its own trading structure and already has major food manufacturers such as Nestle, Starbucks and General Mills as customers.
Rapid progress in this field has ignited hopes for a revolution in the dairy industry, not just because it is cow friendly. No (although those with dairy allergies should be aware). And cows for beef and dairy products, Number one Agricultural sources of greenhouse gases worldwide. Consumers concerned about climate change and animal welfare had hoped that cultured meat grown in labs from animal cells would be launched in the United States, but cultured dairy products can have just as much of an impact on the environment. There is a nature.
Despite the widespread acceptance of soy, oat and almond milk, US consumers, even vegan consumers, continue to be overwhelmed with plant-based cheese options. Made mostly of starch and oil, it often lacks the flavor and texture (no gooey strings, not enough bounce) of real cheese. And cheese is especially bad for the environment than liquid cheese. It takes 10 pounds (or about 5 quarts) of milk to make 1 pound of cheese. The World Economic Forum and a number of scientific reports suggest that cheese produces her third highest emissions in agriculture after beef and lamb.
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For Perfect Day CEO Ryan Pandya, these are the problems he’s trying to solve. But it started as a bagel problem.
While studying chemistry and bioengineering at Tufts University, he became a vegetarian, but still had cravings and preferences for animal products.
“I had a vegan cream cheese bagel that tasted so bad, so I looked it up. Told.
He came up with a process called precision fermentation, similar to the one that has been used for decades to brew beer, make insulin for diabetics, and make rennet for cheese.
“Rather than using 22nd century technology to produce meat, we are using 20th century technology to produce dairy protein,” he said.
There are bubbling stainless steel fermentation tanks, software to maintain temperature, stirring motors and oxygenators. And after the microbes have been programmed to eat the sugar solution and make the desired protein, they separate the milk protein from the culture medium, wash it and dry it in a spray dryer so that the powder can be used in food production. There is a long process of
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Beyond the fermentation process, making usable milk protein is similar to a regular cow dairy farm with stainless steel tanks, spray and freeze dryers, pasteurizers and vacuum pumps, chillers and steamers. “You end up with the same powder, but this is beef,” says Irina Gerry, chief marketing officer at Change Foods in Palo Alto, Calif., pointing to the fermenters at her San Jose lab. .
Global demand for dairy products continues to grow. But it’s not always liquid milk. As the country develops and the middle class burgeons, demand for liquid milk declines and enthusiasm for cheese and other products soars. It has grown 19% since then, with plant-based versions making up a small portion of that market.
General Mills, which makes home brands such as Betty Crocker, Pillsbury, Annie’s, Nature Valley and Häagen-Dazs, has launched a range of Bold Cultr cream cheeses. First with Perfect Day’s precision milk protein, then Israeli food tech startup Remilk. (Last month General Mills said it would “not prioritize funding” these cream cheeses, so its future is uncertain.) Cream cheese, protein powder from California Performance Co. is sold in the United States, Singapore and Hong Kong. We sell Cool House ice cream products in the United States and Singapore.
First marketed in the US, Perfect Day has partnered with Mars, Nestlé, Starbucks, Greaters and others to bring dairy protein into its products. Its offices are in a gleaming skyscraper in an industrial area of Berkeley, California, home to food and biotech startups. There is a fermentation and separation team, analytical and regulatory specialists, a legal and logistics team, plus his two full-time chefs prototyping products and dishes in a sophisticated exhibition kitchen. In addition to its Berkeley facility, the company operates his 90,000-square-foot production facility in Bangalore, India, and his 58,000-square-foot factory in Salt Lake City.
Founded in 2020, Change Foods is headquartered in both Australia and the US, with a commercial manufacturing plant under construction in Abu Dhabi. The plant will produce an amount of animal-free milk protein casein equivalent to the production of 10,000 dairy products. Cow. Like Perfect Day, the company aims to become an ingredient company that supplies dairy protein to other established food companies, but plans to launch its own brand of cheese products in 2025.
Perfect Day’s Global Head of Commercial, Ravi Jhala, said precision fermented dairy products need to grow rapidly to be price competitive with traditional animal dairy products and to be widely adopted. increase. The recent plunge in plant-based meat sales is a noteworthy story.
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One reason analysts see a bright future for precision dairy is the desire of mainstream food companies to reduce their carbon footprint. Many companies have sustainability goals and frequently make commitments such as net zero carbon emissions by 2030, 2040 or beyond. To get there, they’re turning to companies like Perfect Day, which are working with Mars to develop greener chocolate bars.
But will customers buy it? it’s delicious? Most of the 28 precision dairy companies in the global arena sell their milk proteins as raw materials to other food companies, so the quality of the final product depends on the food company that manufactures it. It’s taking One company’s plain cream cheese may be creamy and indistinguishable from cow-derived cream cheese, while another company may decide to solve too many problems at once. It could be a sad schmear or pint recipe.
Experts say consumers are loyal to brands, not raw materials. And brands determine their message to consumers.That General Mills Cream cheeseMarketed as a “lactose-free, non-animal cream cheese alternative.” new chocolate “As a silky smooth chocolate (not a ‘substitute’ for chocolate”) with real milk protein….with no input from animals. ” Brave Robot ice cream Emphasis on sustainability and ruthless aspects. So even precision dairy messaging can be confusing.
“Nestlé and Mars have reach and customers. They can position these new products as extensions to their existing product lines, but the jury is out on what the labels say.” said Tony Moses, Product Innovation at CRB, a food and beverage industry consulting and manufacturing company. .
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Traditional cow dairy has used words like “milk” and “cheese” to oppose plant-based milk, but a series of lawsuits have largely failed. It announced it could use the word “milk” in the names of its oat, soy and almond beverages, but the debate over the exact word could reemerge as these precision dairy products hit the market.
The International Dairy Foods Association opposes the explicit or implicit use of the term “dairy” for any precision product in marketing or merchandising, spokesman Matt Herrick said. I’m here.
“Our position is that the FDA must develop a uniform and mandatory disclosure approach for this technology to ensure that labeling is truthful and not misleading to consumers. is,” he said.
The development of these products comes at a time of great interest in finding alternative sources of protein to feed a burgeoning world population more sustainably. The road ahead can present major obstacles.
The dairy industry, with its clout and huge lobbying budget, may not agree there is room for everyone. According to data from SPINS and Plant Based Foods, in 2022 the U.S. cow’s dairy yielded 16% of his total retail sales of milk to plant-based. Association.
Plant-based milk companies may also not welcome competition, especially if cultivated dairy is positioned as more sustainable and less resource-intensive. (1 cup of almond milk 23 gallons The amount of water you generate, according to the non-profit Water Footprint Network. )
The industry is also likely to face growing resentment among Americans towards processed foods. The cow dairy industry and plant-based companies have teamed up to paint these newcomers as Frankenfoods made by crazed scientists in a lab.
And the future regulatory path of this fledgling industry is not guaranteed. By way of comparison, CBD-infused food and beverage products appeared several years ago as more states decriminalized marijuana and hemp. After deliberation, however, the FDA rejected the regulation in January and asked Congress to intervene. For now, CBD is still illegal and CBD food companies are in limbo.
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For many of these venture capital-funded start-ups, any of these issues can mean the difference between success and failure.
The stakes are high: TurtleTree in Sacramento and Biomilq in Durham, North Carolina are both focused on using this technology to produce breast milk or its components. Last year’s infant formula crisis highlighted the national food security imperative to find sufficient nutritionally adequate alternatives to breast milk.
In a way, lab-grown meat may have cast a looming shadow over this new dairy technology, leaving it shrouded in mystery.
“This is an industry that came to market sooner than I thought it would, and part of it is the regulatory hurdles,” Moses said. “There’s great things going on in the lab, but it’s not certain that it’s going to market, it’s going to be commercialized. I’m watching what Perfect Day is doing. Without our knowledge, how did you come here?”