You’ve already heard of meatless meat, but how about cowless dairy? These innovators are making it a reality. 

Benefits of Milk Alternatives

The market for plant-based non-dairy milk products has exploded in recent years. Despite a lag in demand during Covid-19, the global market for dairy alternatives is projected to grow from $25B USD in 2022 to $61B in 2029. Some of the reasons that these products are so popular include:

  • Lactose intolerance. Mammals naturally lose the ability to digest lactose after weaning, and only some humans retain this ability into adulthood. Globally, approximately 65% of adults have a decreased ability to process the natural sugars in dairy products, leading to intestinal discomfort and other issues with traditional dairy products. 
  • Reduced fat and calories. Plant-based dairy alternatives have less fat and calories than traditional dairy products, which is helpful for people trying to maintain a healthy weight. 
  • Environmental impact. Globally, the production of traditional dairy products takes an enormous toll on the environment. Plant-based dairy alternatives require less land, water, and energy to produce, while generating far fewer emissions and greenhouse gasses. 
  • Animal welfare. While many people can choose products that are free-range, organic, hormone free, and animal welfare certified, it is not always easy to find these products or trust their labeling. For people who dislike industrial farming and are concerned about animal welfare, vegan dairy products can often feel like a more ethical choice. 

Despite all these benefits, vegan dairy products are often underwhelming and don’t positively compare to traditional products. Plant-based dairy has a different flavor and texture, and often does not foam, whip, melt, or emulsify like traditional dairy, making it less useful and versatile in cooking. 

A New Class of Dairy Innovators

While there are a range of new technologies being tested and developed for dairy alternatives, a new group of innovators have stepped into the spotlight with a novel alternative: fermentation. 

Precision fermentation has been in use for decades, but it has only recently been adapted to produce consumable food. With precision fermentation, microorganisms are genetically modified to produce specific compounds, like casein (the primary protein in milk). Using precision fermentation, scientists can create vegan alternatives to the proteins in eggs or dairy, the rennet used in making cheese, and specialty compounds for the pharmaceutical industry. It allows the creation of a wide range of animal-free foods that are produced sustainably and efficiently. Some of the companies using these technologies include:

  • Perfect Day. Perfect Day is the most recent startup to make a big splash with vegan dairy. Perfect Day is the first company to use precision fermentation to make whey, sold just like traditional whey protein powder. 
  • Formo. Germany’s Formo is famous for making animal-free cheeses that taste, smell, and melt like traditional cheeses, using precision fermentation. The company is now turning its attention to a vegan alternative egg.  
  • Those Vegan Cowboys. Based in Belgium, Those Vegan Cowboys have used precision fermentation to make real casein and produce animal-free cheese. The company is focused on using this casein to make ripened vegan cheeses and alternatives to Stilton, Camembert, Gouda, and other cheeses, while speeding and upscaling their processes. 
  • Upfield’s Violife offers a range of award-winning plant-based products crafted from coconut oil. These products are free from dairy, preservatives, casein, lactose, gluten, nuts, and soy.

Fueled by consumer demand, technological success, and regulatory ambiguity in regard to novel foods, Europe’s precision fermenters have joined together to form Food Fermentation Europe, an industry alliance focused on education, promotion, and advocacy.    

Grapefrute supports the scientists, researchers, and innovators making a healthier, more sustainable, more delicious future for us all. To learn more about how we can help startups staff the talent they need to grow, contact us today.