Alt dairy bottleneck: start-up calls for collaboration to speed non-animal casein production

By Oliver Morrison

- Last updated on GMT

Image: Getty/MurzikNata
Image: Getty/MurzikNata

Related tags precision fermentation animal-free dairy Dairy alternatives

Dutch fermentation specialist Fooditive claims it has successfully demonstrated the feasibility of non-animal casein production at an industrial scale and is now hoping to collaborate with a ‘like-minded partners’ to navigate Novel Food approval in the EU.

Produced from a proprietary bacterial strain using precision fermentation, Fooditive claimed its casein is genetically identical to dairy casein but completely animal-free, therefore opening the door to the development of “sustainable, nutritious plant-based dairy products that are much closer to the originals in terms of taste and texture”.

With manufacturing trials now complete, Fooditive said it is in a position to begin production of vegan casein at higher volumes to supply customers in Europe. However, prior to this, obtaining approval as a Novel Food in the EU is required.

As our trials reach a successful completion, Fooditive stands on the cusp of scaling up production of our vegan casein to cater to the needs of our European clientele,”​ Moayad Abushokhedim, Fooditive CEO and Founder. But our vision extends beyond mere production. At Fooditive, we firmly believe in the transformative power of partnerships and the profound market impact they can foster. With an imminent need to acquire Novel Food approval in the EU before we proceed, we are actively seeking an alliance with a partner who shares our commitment to sustainability and innovation.”

Regulatory process is 'greatest challenge' facing precision fermentation-derived products and ingredients

Since it was established in 2018, Fooditive has used its proprietary fermentation process to create a sweetener, made from side-streams of apples and pears. It has also recently launched a new plant-based protein that it claims can be used in the food industry to replace dairy in food and beverage applications.

Its innovation comes amid challenges for those alternative protein precision fermentation companies on the market working on dairy applications such as cow-free cheese, milk and ice cream. Bottlenecks include very little production capacity available specifically for precision fermentation available globally and high CAPEX costs. Groups like Food Fermentation Europe (FFE) further claim the regulatory process for Novel Foods is the greatest challenge facing precision fermentation-derived products and ingredients. Will van den Tweel, Project Director at Those Vegan Cowboys, a company that formed FFE, recently told FoodNavigator that greater collaboration is needed to accelerate approval in Europe and ‘de-risk’ the precision fermentation dairy sector​.

‘Not just hopeful but enthusiastic’

“On this journey, we are not just navigating regulatory processes, but also reinforcing our belief in collaborative growth and shared success,”​ said Abushokhedim. “Fooditive is not just hopeful, but enthusiastic to embark on this journey with a like-minded partner, to unlock new possibilities, and to redefine the vegan casein market together."

Development of Fooditive’s non-animal casein began in 2019. Initially, it was produced from a yeast, but is now made using a unique bacterial strain developed by Fooditive through gene synthesis. This offers a number of advantages, according to the company, including improved scalability, efficiency, cost optimization and safety, with ‘no compromise’ on quality or taste. The transition marks a significant milestone in Fooditive’s pursuit of making healthy food accessible to a wider consumer base and positions the company at the forefront of advancements in sustainable food technology.

As well as plant-based dairy products such as cheese and yoghurt, the non-animal casein is suitable for use in vegan meat applications to provide a ‘moist and pleasant’ mouthfeel.

“Throughout its journey, Fooditive has remained steadfast in its commitment to making healthy food affordable and accessible to all. With this enhanced production process, we are poised to expand our offerings and meet the growing demand for sustainable and affordable dairy alternatives,”​ Abushokhedim added. “By leveraging the advantages of our bacterial strain, we have further solidified our position as a leading player in the plant-based food industry, dedicated to driving positive change and revolutionizing the way we consume and enjoy food.”

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