Alternatives in the dairy industry have seen massive growth in both range and popularity in recent years. At this point in time, nearly every grocery store stocks an array of alternatives, while most restaurants and cafes offer a range of plant-based milks for beverages, and cheeses for food items. Despite this surge in popularity amongst consumers and stockists alike, some attributes of traditional dairy have proven more difficult for plant-based startups to emulate than others – namely the creaminess of milk, and the meltability of cheese.
These barriers are rapidly being overcome through technological innovation in the alternative dairy sector, and the use of techniques such as precision fermentation.
Globally startups are utilizing this technology to make products that are bio-identical to traditional dairy items, though do not require the farming of animals. The technology of fermentation is not new and has been used for decades to produce items including beer, kombucha, and miso. However, innovation in this field offers great prospects and multiple companies have successfully used this technology to produce a variety of milk proteins, cheese products, and other dairy analogues.
The US currently has the most regulatory friendly environment for such items, and these have been in the market for over a year through the incorporation of Perfect Day’s bio-identical whey in a variety of white-label products. Recent launches like Tomorrow Farms brand Bored Cow and Strive Nutrition indicate rapid growth in the category nationally.
In Europe, the regulatory environment is less favorable. Though companies like Fermify, Formo, Real Deal Milk, and SDC portfolio company Better Dairy continue to innovate in this field and push the envelope in animal free dairy.
These developments result in products that are molecularly identical to the items consumers are used to, with added nutritional and environmental benefits. As Jevan Nagarajah, founder and CEO of Better Dairy explains, “Dairy products themselves contain several unwanted pollutants such as growth hormones and antibiotics by virtue of the process of milking mothering cows and are thus not the most suitable for human consumption.”
Even food and beverage giants are beginning to embrace this technology. Recently Mars launched a lactose free chocolate brand called “CO2COA” which features Perfect Day’s animal-free whey protein. While a leader in the Spanish dairy industry, Pascual has set up the “Mylkcubator,” the world’s first global incubator specializing in next gen dairy innovation.
As the field of precision fermentation continues to evolve and these products enter the mainstream, early signs of disruption in the $700 billion dairy industry are beginning to show and startups are poised to continue securing share in this market.
“While our intention was initially to enable a wave of better dairy products, our ambitions have grown to target the disruption of the entire dairy supply chain across dairy and non-dairy categories. Our vision is to create a world where humans are vegan without even realizing it,” says Nagarajah of Better Dairy.