The EVERY Company raises $175m to expand ‘animal-free’ protein platform
The oversubscribed round brings the company's cumulative funding to $233m and was also backed by Temasek, Wheatsheaf Group, TO Ventures, and Prosus Ventures. The funds will be used to scale production and commercialize new animal-free proteins, said The EVERY Company, which has been mining the egg proteome for “novel, hyper-functional proteins” it can express in yeast or other organisms.
To date, The EVERY Company has commercialized two ingredients exclusively sold by Ingredion and available globally: an animal-free pepsin, an enzyme traditionally sourced from pig stomachs; and a highly soluble, ‘nearly invisible’ protein called EVERY ClearEgg, which is bio-identical to a glycoprotein found in egg white, enabling formulators to add a “nearly tasteless” protein boost to beverages, snacks and nutrition bars, and make kosher, halal and animal-free claims.
Next in the pipeline (launching 2022) is a more functional product combining more than one egg white protein, says the California-based company, which recently teamed up with ZX Ventures, the innovation arm of brewer AB InBev, to help develop an industrial scale fermentation platform for its proteins.
'Some of the proteins in egg white are the most functional and nutritional proteins on the planet'
Arturo Elizondo, who founded the company (formerly known as Clara Foods) in 2014, told FoodNavigator-USA that there are 100+ proteins in egg white alone (the best-known are ovalbumin, ovotransferrin, ovomucoid, ovomucin, and lysozyme), many of which have never been individually commercialized. New products from The EVERY Co could be individual proteins or novel combinations of proteins that have specific functionality, he said. “Some of the proteins in egg white are the most functional and nutritional proteins on the planet.”
He added: “We never set out to make every single protein in eggs; we’re mining the egg, so the way that we are building out the platform is understanding all of the different permutations so we can have customized formulations. We can mix and match these proteins, so that with a core subset of proteins, we can create dozens of different products.”
'We can now double down far more aggressively to become the world's dominant animal free protein platform’
Asked why investors have been willing to part with such large sums of money to support The EVERY Co’s vision, he said: “We have done so much de-risking over the last two years. When we raised the series B [in spring 2019], we were an R&D company, and the challenge was how do we translate the science into a commercial reality?
“Over the last three years, we've made that happen with two proteins, our soluble protein and our pepsin. We've proven scale-up of manufacturing, we're manufacturing oversea, we're selling in the US, in Europe and Asia.
“And we're working with two of the world's largest food companies to reduce execution risk and set the company up for global scale on the front end [Ingredion handles global sales for The EVERY Co] and on the back end [AB InBev is working with The EVERY Co to develop an industrial scale fermentation platform for its proteins], because ultimately those two dictate the unit economics.
"The key part of the manufacturing has been on having our organism express these proteins at high enough yields and from day one to the day we die, that will be the number one KPI of the businesses, to prove that microorganisms can be more efficient than animals at producing animal protein.
“We've also built our manufacturing process to be plug-and-play with any large-scale fermentation company in the world.”
'We’re also looking at other animal proteins [beyond egg]'
He added: “Part of this capital will help us build out an entire suite of egg proteins, but we’re also looking at other animal proteins, as we’ve done with pepsin; we can now double down far more aggressively to become the world's dominant animal free protein platform.”
Asked about attitudes within large CPG companies to The EVERY Co’s products, which are produced with the aid of synthetic biology, he said: “I remember five plus years ago, the question that was always top of mind for them was will consumers accept new food technology? That no longer really comes up in conversation. They are all looking for more options beyond soy and peas.”
“By leveraging precision fermentation technologies, EVERY is bringing ingredient synthesis from science fiction to supermarket aisles, starting with egg proteins and enzymes.” Gabriel Ruimy, managing partner, Rage Capital
“Eggs are not only ubiquitous, but they are also incredibly difficult to replace; we see tremendous potential in EVERY’s revolutionary technology.” Henry McGovern, founder, McWin Food Ecosystem Fund and AmRest, which operates over 2,300 restaurants
While the host microorganism is genetically engineered, the protein itself will not trigger a ‘bioengineered’ label
While The EVERY Co's proteins are produced by a genetically modified yeast strain, they “do not contain residual genetically modified yeast nor genetically modified DNA, so do not trigger a bioengineered label,” noted Elizondo, who secured a coveted ‘no questions’ letter from the FDA last month in response to the company’s GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) determination for EVERY ClearEgg.
Produced by a strain of Komagataella phaffii yeast, the soluble egg-white protein is a glycoprotein containing predominantly recombinant ovomucoid, explained the FDA: “The physical characteristics of the recombinant ovomucoid in soluble egg-white protein and deglycosylated native hen egg white ovomucoid are equivalent in molecular weight, isoelectric point, and glycosylation sites.”
After fermentation, the K. phaffii cells are separated by centrifugation and microfiltration. The resulting lysate is further purified using pH adjustment and ultra-filtration, and then dried to produce the final product, an off-white powder.
While The EVERY Co says the product is suitable for vegans, because it is made without animals, products using it will feature an egg allergen warning, as EVERY ClearEgg is bioidentical to a protein found in egg white.