The “fake” cheese is here (and its creators promise that this time it does taste like cheese), Most of today’s cheese substitutes are made from soybeans, cashews, peas or other foods, and they generally lack the aromas, juicy and creamy texture of when delicately melted in the oven. Precisely what any cheese lover loves. Although it is true that the milk substitutes based on nuts and grains improve every year, they still do not have caseins, which represent the 80% of the proteins in cow’s milk and gives the cheese texture.
The moment has arrived. A dozen startups have been warming their heads and looking for a way to create caseins with precision fermentation to produce cheeses that are virtually indistinguishable from real ones. And without the environmental and animal welfare problems, of course.
A for cheese without cows. Yes. An emerging technology promises vegan cheese that’s as creamy and tangy as real. A decade ago, Jaap Korteweg founded Vegetarian Butcher, a company that made fake meat look just enough like the real thing. Long enough to appear on the Burger King menu. We have talked about the 3D printed steaks and all that string of gastronomic news on Magnet. But for anyone wanting a cheeseburger, Korteweg couldn’t find an acceptable substitute.
So last year, the Dutch businessman invested the proceeds from the sale of the meat company in other company: Those Vegan Cowboys . The objective? Make dairy products without cows. On the way to a plant-based diet, “cheese was the last thing that disappeared from my plate,” said its creator.
process. The procedure combines fermentation, which humans have been doing for thousands of years to make everything from beer and wine to kimchi and sauerkraut, with genetic splicing techniques developed over the past decades. Technicians modify fungi or yeast by inserting a digital copy of the cow’s DNA. This substance is placed in steel tanks, where it reacts with organic materials to produce caseins, which are mixed with fats to produce a milk-like liquid that is the starting material for cheese.
A future trend. Many companies are already betting that alternative cheese will be the next big thing as growth in demand for milk substitutes begins to slow. Blue Horizon, a Zurich-based venture capital firm focused on making food more sustainable, predicts that vegan cheese consumption will increase further five times for 2025.
This year around 1 have been invested. 200 million euros in new startups of dairy substitutes , a 70% more than 2020, according to Dealroom. And investment in companies using precision fermentation doubled last year from 1999, to almost 600 million euros, according to Good Food Institute. What is being tried is to move a product that initially could only attract vegetarians or vegans and bring it to the mainstream.
Looking for the replacement of milk . Although it is already possible to create a substitute milk that is indistinguishable from the real one through precision fermentation, the increasing quality of beverages made with oats, soy, almonds or rice has prompted newcomers to focus on dairy products from higher margin. Starbucks has started testing ice creams of this type from Perfect Day. And Nobell, a startup in San Francisco backed by Bill Gates, genetically modifies soybean plants to produce dairy proteins instead of soy proteins.
Nobell hopes to present its first products in 2023, and Perfect Day plans to add cream cheese in the coming months, but it will probably be years before the technology is truly compe titiva with traditional cheeses. In Europe, may take longer for regulators to approve such foods due to concerns about genetically modified cells that requires the method, although modifications are necessary only to make the process work and there are no such cells in the final products.
What do we call this invention? One question that arises from all this is what are we going to call “foods” made with precision fermentation. Some suggest “lab grown cheese.” But unsurprisingly, dairy companies in several countries have objected to soy and oat milk producers labeling their products as “milk,” so they would likely have a similar problem with cheeses made with fermentation of milk. precision.
And because a copy of cow’s milk DNA is used to do the process, some vegans may reject the products. “These companies are potentially using the DNA of the cow. We would have to consider where it comes from “explained Chantelle Adkins of the UK Vegan Society. Although there are startups that are also hedging their bets with a plant-based offering. Magi Richani, founder of Nobell, summed up the whole debate well with this phrase : “If we create products that compete in taste and price and, finally, are cheaper than those from an animal source, people will buy them. ”
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