Today is a good news day for the lactose-intolerant.
Promising “cow cheese, without the cow,” dairy alternative startup New Culture has attracted $25 million from investors to take its vegan mozzarella national.
The three-year-old Bay Area start-up is one of the latest entrants to the fast-growing alternative meat (and other animal products) market, and it’s hoping to fill a niche that so far no other company has quite cracked.
The popularity of plant-based food has been exploding, with New Food Magazine reporting that sales doubled last summer, and Bloomberg Intelligence noting that the industry may reach sales of “$162 billion by 2030. That's up from $29.4 billion in 2020.”
The plant-based food market would comprise 7.7% of the global food market.
But while companies such as Beyond Meat, Oatly and Daring Foods have been doing brisk business with their plant-based versions of hamburgers, milk and chicken, respectively, there’s been a widespread sense amongst consumers that the new wave of animal products alternatives haven’t quite nailed vegan cheese just yet.
According to Allied Market Research, the vegan cheese industry was valued around $1.2 billion in size in 2019 and is currently projected to reach $4.4 billion by 2027.
Investor Steve Jurvetson isn’t shy about the quality of his product, noting to TechCrunch that while most vegan cheese is “quite disgusting,” his product tastes, smells and stretches like regular old analog milk cheese.
The key, Jurvetson says, is casein protein, which previously could only be found in milk and is the key to making cheese taste like, well, cheese.
New Culture has developed a fermentation process that allows it to develop casein protein in bulk, that is then blended with water, plant-based fats, vitamins and minerals to make their version of mozzarella.
The company says its vegan cheese will be both cholesterol- and lactose-free and better for the environment.
While the company could one day develop its version of milk, yogurt and ice cream, at the moment its plan is to begin distributing its cheese through pizzerias starting next year.