For a few years now, animal-free milk – vegan milk identical to that which comes from a cow – has been making headlines in the field of food technology. Soon you’ll be able to buy it, thanks to a startup looking to disrupt the dairy market and a food-tech company growing dairy-free whey in bioreactors.
Betterland Foods, a new food technology company, will debut at the major Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim, California in March. Its first products are animal-free milks – in “whole” and “extra creamy” varieties – which resemble traditional cow’s milk because they contain the actual protein that makes moo juice unique, as well as MCTs and oil. of sunflower. As a result, the product tastes like milk. Additionally, it froths, steams, whips, and provides protein and fat to baked goods.
That’s because Betterland Foods milk is made from whey protein, but not from an animal. It was developed by Perfect Day, a food tech company known for making animal-free dairy protein for products like ice cream and cream cheese. And, it is created through the age-old technique of fermentation.
How to Create Realistic Cow’s Milk Without the Cow
Betterland Foods Founder and CEO Lizanne Falseto started the Think! protein bar company in the 90s, then sold it to Irish nutrition brand Glanbia for $217 million in 2015. After that, it kept a close eye on the protein innovation space.
“I knew I wanted to help create protein-based products that not only tasted great, but were also healthier for people and kinder to the environment,” says Falsetto. The protein industry veteran thought of something you can find in most refrigerators: milk.
“I love milk – I grew up drinking it at almost every meal. However, as I got older I stopped having milk because I was told it was bad for me” says Falsetto.She knew milk offered a good source of protein, but learned that processed dairy is harming the planet.
Eventually, she understood the exciting developments Perfect Day founders Ryan Pandya and Perumal Gandhi were innovating in the lab, and was inspired to re-enter the food industry. Using their animal-free whey protein, Falsetto and his team developed Betterland Foods’ two realistic vegan milk flavors over a nine-month period and tried 10 recipes for each flavor before they were ready for the chain. production. The milk is lactose-free, but since it contains animal-based whey protein, anyone with a whey allergy should not drink it.
“For me personally, I knew we had succeeded when my main taste testers (my two children) said they preferred it to traditional cow’s milk – and they can be unforgiving,” says Falsetto.
Wait a minute, you ask yourself, don’t we already have soy, almond, oat, coconut, cashew, pistachio, potato and even vegetable milk developed at using artificial intelligence? Beyond the vegan milk boom, the earliest known records of dairy-free milk date back nearly 2,000 years to the end of the Han dynasty in China. Medieval European Christians were a little obsessed with almond milk.
But, “while plant-based milks certainly have their place, they generally don’t have the protein levels or sensory performance characteristics of cow’s milk,” says Falsetto.
That’s true, but Betterland Foods’ focus on food technology makes it a contender for the next wave of precision fermentation products.
Precision fermentation could be part of the answer to the question of how to produce food that sustains both us and the planet. Animal agriculture is a notoriously resource-intensive industry that is responsible for more than 14% of all human-made greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
But, through precision fermentation, the microflora – which can be yeast, algae or, in the case of Perfect Day, fungi – can be manipulated to create custom molecules that play a role in how well foods, such as proteins and fats. And, this form of production is significantly more efficient than raising a cow for milk or beef.
“Plain cow’s milk is considered one of the ‘holy grails’ of protein product development because it’s so difficult to recreate,” says Gandhi, co-founder of Perfect Day. This is because its complex flavor is affected by a multitude of factors, including the cow’s diet, seasonality and how the milk is processed. But protein also plays an important role in the texture and mouthfeel of milk.
“Protein also impacts the whiteness and opacity of milk, which also influences your perception of its taste and texture,” adds Gandhi. “Because our protein is identical to the protein found in cow’s milk, it can replicate this complex functionality, unlike plant proteins.”
So how is it done? The Perfect Day team “programs” its microflora to make whey protein, then places it in a large stainless steel fermentation tank that doesn’t look too different from one used to brew beer, and adds a proprietary blend. of sugar and minerals for it’s food. The microflora ferments the sugar to make whey protein, then it is filtered to create pure, cow-free whey protein powder that can be used to make milk or ice cream. The process takes only a few days compared to the several years it takes to raise a cow to produce milk.
Earth-friendly innovation in the dairy aisle
Dairy-free milk alone accounts for 35% of the US plant-based food market. Globally, health and sustainability conscious younger generations are more likely to buy alternatives than older ones. But, many households are still exclusively on Team Dairy, according to a study published in the Journal of Dairy Science, which is not good news for the planet. However, flexitarian households – those who buy both vegan and animal products – are on the rise and their purchasing power is strengthening. And therein lies the opportunity to disrupt the global milk market.
Betterland Foods is the first company to bring animal-free milk to market, but many startups around the world are also rushing to launch their first products. These companies include New Culture from New Zealand, These Vegan Cowboys from Belgium, Better Dairy from the UK, Remilk from Israel and De Novo Dairy from South Africa. The use of microbes and yeast to produce an arguably more effective version of animal products also extends beyond the dairy aisle – in the near future, even your breakfast tray consisting of bacon and eggs could be prepared this way.
Falsetto says to expect new, more innovative products that taste great but have a significantly lower environmental footprint, from Betterland Foods. The nature of these products is confidential at this time, but rest assured that they will disrupt other unsustainable categories, such as dairy.
The Perfect Day team also has big ambitions. Precision fermentation has enormous potential to disrupt mainstream food categories that go beyond the dairy aisle.
Betterland Foods Realistic Vegan Milk is set to hit retailers this summer.