Berlin-based Formo – formerly LegenDairy – is a cultivated dairy company that uses microorganisms instead of cows to produce animal-free milk proteins.
The process sees selected microorganisms encoded with milk protein DNA sequences. These cells are then grown in a fermenter until enough protein has been produced to harvest. Next, the milk proteins are combined with plant-based fats and carbohydrates to create a base for the cheesemaking process.
This ingredient mix is then turned into ‘indulgent cheeses’ in the ‘artisan tradition’. Fermentation, enzymes, or heat are used to coagulate the product into curd. From there, it can be packaged right away as fresh cheese or ripened to create stronger flavours, delivering cheeses the company says are ‘indistinguishable’ from their traditional counterpart.
"Currently, we focus on a small selection of high-quality European cheeses, from fresh cheeses such as ricotta to aged and ripened variations. With our processes, we will be able to create cheeses that are indistinguishable from the original," co-founder and CSO Dr. Britta Winterberg told FoodNavigator.
Formo: 'Combining tradition with breakthrough science'
Raffel Wohlgensinger, fellow co-founder and chief executive, said that having developed its first validated prototypes the time was right to launch a ‘protectable’ brand. The company has changed its name from LegenDairy to Formo, the Latin word for ‘I mold, I form’.
“We started with LegenDairy Foods as a brand to establish ourselves in the precision fermentation space. With the best talent on board and our first validated prototypes, it is the right time for us to launch a protectable consumer brand. Our new brand communicates our vision and values: changing the food system through delicious animal-free products,” he noted.
“Formo represents our ambition to remix the heritage by combining tradition with breakthrough science,” added Dr. Winterberg.
Realising the 'huge potential' of precision fermentation
Alongside the rebrand, the company is working to bringing its first cultivated dairy products to the consumer.
Formo believes building a consumer-facing business is the ‘the best way to establish this technology on a large scale and to see the huge potential of precision fermentation materialise’. However, the German group is simultaneously considering ‘diverse go-to-market strategies’ that can ‘effectively increase brand exposure and consumer adoption of new a new product’.
The dairy innovator aims to launch its first products by 2023, meaning regulatory approval is ‘top of mind for us at the moment’.
"We will begin to sell our product where we can get regulatory approval granted the fastest and where we see that consumers are most excited about our product, based on our consumer research,” Dr. Winterberg revealed.
Consumer acceptance and education
In the meantime, Formo is also working to build consumer awareness and acceptance.
As part of its bid to gain exposure, Formo is planning to host a product demonstration event in collaboration with a Michelin star chef later this year. “We recently started to collaborate with Ricky Saward, the first chef to ever receive a Michelin star for a fully vegan, hyperlocal cuisine. This gives us the unique opportunity to explore uncharted culinary territory and further develop our product range while also preserving the original heritage,” this publication was told.
Formo is also preparing to release a consumer acceptance study on cultivated dairy products in ‘the near future’. The large-scale research surveyed more than 5000 participants from five countries and is currently in the peer-review process.
"The results of our consumer acceptance study show a strong appetite for animal-free dairy products across all age groups and dietary preferences. We will reveal further details within the next 1-2 months,” Wohlgensinger explained.
"Regarding consumer acceptance, we see it as our responsibility to lead the conversation around precision fermentation and to educate the people on the process behind it."
To this end, Formo is working to establish a consistent nomenclature for precision fermentation products. It believes consistent terminology is a ‘first step’ towards making the precision fermentation process as transparent as possible for consumers.