Animal-Free Dairy Roundup: Shutting Doors, Seeking Buyers, Selling to Consumers
One could characterize 2022 as being the year of the synbio animal-free dairy launch. Startup Betterland Foods emerged from stealth mode and launched its first product, Betterland Milk, in anticipation of Expo West in March. Later that month, Tomorrow Farms debuted its first synbio animal-free dairy product, Bored Cow milk. Then in June, Coolhaus released its first animal-free dairy product post-acquisition by the Perfect Day affiliate the Urgent Company: an animal-free dairy ice cream sandwich. All of these synbio products featured animal-free dairy, or whey, proteins developed by Perfect Day.
In 2023, synbio animal-free dairy developers are still emerging from stealth mode. Animal-free dairy products are still being launched. Developers that are creating cheese using animal-free dairy proteins are still bullish. However, this year has seen a few changes in the synbio animal-free dairy marketplace. Below is a brief round-up of some of the newest developments.
General Mills launched Bold Cultr in 2021, partnering with Perfect Day to create a cream cheese spread that featured the latter’s animal-free whey proteins. After switching animal-free dairy ingredient suppliers from Perfect Day to Remilk at the beginning of 2023, General Mills unexpectedly pulled funding for Bold Cultr in February. No details were given regarding the decision to cease funding for the product.
The startup Betterland Foods (Betterland) made its debut with much fanfare at Expo West last year, launching Betterland Milk, which was created with Perfect Day’s animal-free dairy proteins. The price for a quart of Betterland Milk was to be set at $6.89, and the company planned to sell the milk via Amazon beginning in late August.
In addition, scarcely a month after the milk reveal, Betterland launched Woo Salty Peanut bar, the company’s first chocolate bar. Salty Peanut was soon followed by a variety of Woo chocolate bars designed to compete with consumer favorites, such as Milky Way and Mounds, confirming the company’s desire to create a range of products that featured Perfect Day’s animal-free dairy proteins.
However, earlier this year, the company paused production of all products and announced that its founder and CEO, Lizanne Falsetto, was seeking a buyer for the brand.
In April of 2022, the Israeli synbio animal-free dairy developer Remilk announced plans to build a $750,000-square-foot precision fermentation facility in Denmark, which was touted as being the world’s largest precision fermentation facility. However, in February of this year, the company announced a change in plans, opting instead to use a contract manufacturer to produce its animal-free dairy proteins.
In April, Remilk announced that it was the first synbio animal-free dairy protein developer to receive regulatory approval in Israel. This followed Remilk’s earlier announcement of a partnership with the Central Bottling Company (CBC) in Israel (aka Coca Cola Israel) to launch a range of products featuring the former’s animal-free dairy proteins, including “dairy drinks,” cheese, and yogurt.
Since New Culture’s founding in 2019, the company’s focus has been on the development of synbio animal-free casein to create a “meltable” mozzarella. In May, New Culture announced that it would launch its synbio mozzarella as a topping on two pizzas developed by Nancy Silverton for Pizzeria Mozza in Los Angeles. The company anticipates creating partnerships with additional restaurants in the coming months.
Fermify, an Austrian synbio startup founded in 2021, announced in May that it had closed a $5 million seed funding round to further its efforts to create animal-free casein via precision fermentation. The company believes that its proprietary processing platform could allow it to achieve price parity with conventional cheese by 2027. Fermify has yet to select the customers with which it will partner to commercially launch its cheese.
Recently, terminology has been on the minds of Perfect Day officials after the company’s research suggested that terms such as “animal-free” dairy or whey might not resonate with consumers. The company also cited confusion among retailers with regard to product placement, and this confusion can extend to consumers, especially for products that strive to attract vegan eaters but also need milk allergen warnings.
To address this issue, Perfect Day announced that it is now recommending use of the term “whey protein from fermentation” to describe its ingredient, which removes any use of the word “animal.” It’s interesting to note that on the Betterland Foods website, the images of Betterland Milk (which feature Perfect Day’s animal-free whey proteins), feature the on-pack description: “made with plant based whey protein; lactose and nut free.”
Perfect Day has also quietly adopted a new trademarked term to describe its product – ProFerm – which the company describes as “whey protein isolate from fermentation,” again obscuring the connection to animals.
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