Whey Finance

Another food tech startup promises to scale precision cheeses from fermentation

The Parisian company creates caseins with precision fermentation to produce cheeses virtually indistinguishable from the real thing, without the environmental and animal welfare concerns.

A €12 million funding round led by Astanor Ventures, with participation from PeakBridge, Seventure Partners, Big Idea Ventures and Good Startup, will fund the company’s next phase of development and scale its technology to meet industrial demand.

The round, completed less than two years after its inception, will also serve to perfect its processed products and initiate the regulatory process. Frederic Paques, CEO of Standing Ovation, told FoodNavigator that the company is developing a B2B model for “rapid commercialization rollout, reaching out to food companies around the world, to leverage existing distribution and sales channels. “. “We position ourselves as product providers, not technology providers,”he explained. “The first products in our pipeline are caseins, and we are aiming for marketing in 2024, on a B2B model, of branded ingredients. In the longer term, we plan to diversify our offer, and move down the value chain, by manufacturing our own processed products.

The company wants to explore caseins, we were told, to achieve true replica cheese products, with a focus on fresh and soft cheeses. Standing Ovation said it has developed a protein production process that enables the development of 100% non-animal and lactose-free substitutes for cheese and dairy products.

Describing the “simple but innovative process,” the company explained that it is able to produce caseins through microbial fermentation in fermentors, in the absence of any animal products. “Caseins are not only the main proteins in milk, at more than 80%, but also those that allow it to curdle into cheese, give it its melting characteristics, or produce filaments”, said Easter. “These caseins can then be used, with other products of vegetable or mineral origin, to obtain true replicas of traditional cheeses. This method makes it possible to give the finished products a composition, in particular protein, as close as possible to that of conventional products… We initially focused on fresh and soft cheeses, but we want to target all types of cheese. We are also already working on other dairy substitutes, such as yoghurt.

The process is protected by intellectual property, both for its upstream part (production of casein) and downstream (production of cheese substitutes). “Standing Ovation’s technology has enormous potential. However, bringing products to market quickly requires significant resources, and substantial funding was needed.”said Easter.

Romain Chayot, scientific director of Standing Ovation, adds: “In just two years, we have developed a unique and highly technological process. We are now in a strong position to continue this momentum and move to more logistically intensive steps, in particular scaling up.”

The Growing Precision Fermentation Sector

The search for more environmentally friendly production methods is a big draw in the precision fermentation sector. But little is known about the potential environmental/energy impact of precision fermentation production on an industrial scale.

“Our technology is designed to minimize water use, land use and carbon footprint, and our early estimates indicate significant gains, similar to what has been observed for other proteins produced by fermentation. precision”,said Easter. “We are currently refining the numbers.”

Meanwhile, a growing number of companies are using precision fermentation to make cheese and milk alternatives. Paques told us that the company is confident that it can produce caseins on a large scale through its proprietary process.

“Today, our casein production is at the industrial pilot stage (kg scale) with our first ‘cheeses’ produced. We will go to ton scale very soon in 2023,”he revealed.

“Several companies are actually focusing on beta-lactoglobulin, a whey protein. Caseins are difficult proteins to produce and we are one of the few companies in the world to focus solely on caseins. And thanks to our exclusive method, we are certainly one of the few to produce caseins on this scale.

“And cheese is made from the curdling of caseins. By definition, whey protein is in whey, the part of milk that doesn’t curdle. So with a few exceptions, like Ricotta, if you want to make cheese, you need to produce caseins.

Precision fermentation start-ups recognize that achieving scale is a barrier to commercialization. Moreover, the European Commission has not yet approved its first product made in this way.

“Our products fall under Novel Food regulations in Europe. In the United States, it is the GRAS status that will have to be obtained from the FDA”,Paques explained. “We expect to file the applications next year, for approval in 2024 in the United States, and in 2025 in Europe, where the procedure is longer.

“Caseins are the milk proteins of cows and other domesticated animals, consumed by humans for thousands of years. The way is therefore well marked to obtain the green light from the regulatory authorities.

Astanor Ventures, meanwhile, has invested in more than 40 agri-tech companies globally, including French food waste unicorn Ynsect, German vertical farmer Infarm, US advanced biomaterials company Modern Meadow and Australian plant protein company v2food.

Eric Archambeau, co-founder of Astanor Ventures said: “Standing Ovation’s technology represents a paradigm shift for the animal-free dairy market. Casein is the holy grail for producing alternative options that match conventional products in nutrition, taste and texture, but it has remained notoriously difficult to create. The founders’ experience in biotechnology allowed them to find the key to the development of casein, a step ahead of many companies. We’re very impressed with the team’s progress over the past year, both in product development and process, and we’re excited to support them on this next step in their journey.