Say What… Dairy-Free Cheese?
Disclaimer: I certainly feel like these new companies are gunning for the traditional dairy and livestock operations, and I hate that fact, but I also don’t think we can collectively afford to ignore what is happening and the media that continues to build and circulate. I’ve met some great farm families who desperately depend on the dairy and livestock industry and I know they hate hearing and seeing the disruption coming this direction. I was questioning if I should even run this story because it could piss off so many of my friends. But what do we do? Do we just look the other way and ignore it? Leave it for our kids to figure out? I honestly don’t know. I hate the propaganda that is circulating but I think we all need to be aware of what’s coming. In today’s world the computer algorithms often only feed us want we want to read and want to hear… I think we have to be fully aware. We might not like it but we need to see it and understand what is happening.
“New Culture”, a San Francisco start-up is one of the many early-stage companies moving quickly to commercialize synthetic biology technologies that will impact our health, food, and energy and they are hoping to deliver on dairy-free cheese and grab a part of the growing vegan cheese market. According to The Good Food Institute, sales of plant-based cheese in the US increased by a considerable +68.8% between April 2017 and April 2019, from $95m to $160m. While the rise of veganism has fuelled this, plant-based dairy also appeals to lactose-intolerant consumers. But mainstream vegan cheeses aren’t to everyone’s taste, as many feel it is bland, plasticky and just doesn’t taste good. New Culture is banking that their fermentation process will overcome where some plant-based dairy products are falling short.
CEO and co-founder, Matt Gibson started New Culture when he perceived there to be a lack of companies moving into the space to address viable alternative cheese products. New Culture’s vegan cheese is checking all the boxes, describing their products as not only sustainable, healthy, ethical but also indistinguishable from animal-based dairy cheese in taste, texture and function. Gibson points out that fully plant-based cheese doesn’t work because it lacks casein micelle, a supramolecular structure of dairy proteins that are found only in mammalian milk, and the crucial component which gives dairy cheese its signature properties. From what I understand, their process is loosely comparable to the way Impossible Foods makes meatless burgers. Microbes, such as yeast, are given the genetic instructions to produce the dairy proteins as the microbes are cultivated en masse, nutrients added, the temperature adjusted, then the organisms start churning out large quantities of the proteins that are isolated and added to various recipes.
It’s worth mentioning, Evolv, the $100 million KraftHeinz-backed venture fund that invests in emerging tech companies transforming the food industry, lead the latest round of funding of $3.5 million. As consumer sentiment, as well as money-flow continues to head into the synthetic space, there are no signs of dissipating, meaning these processes and products will most likely continue to make it to market. You can debate all day on the numbers being thrown around regarding greenhouse gases, water, and land use, but it doesn’t change the reality that things are changing. Lots to consider for those of us in the space. You can learn more about how New Culture is seeking to disrupt one of the oldest and largest food industries in the world by producing a dairy cheese without the cow at “Dairy Without the Farm: How the U.S. Cheese Industry Will Age,” a webinar to be held on August 20 at 3pm CT/4pm ET featuring Matt Gibson, co-founder and CEO of New Culture. You can register HERE.