Together the duo are creating a “one-stop shop or scaling up fermentation production,” which has been notoriously limited, with the ultimate goal of making plant proteins more “authentic” and appealing to consumers, company co-founder and CEO James Petrie told FoodNavigator-USA.
By improving the consumer experience of plant-based protein with the addition of flavorful specialty fats, Petrie says Nourish can help the category overcome the current “backlash” of consumers who are eager to try their products but ultimately are unsatisfied with the taste experience and therefore, unwilling to repurchase.
He explained the dramatic drop of in sales and volume of plant-based meat in the past year has “in one way been healthy for [the industry] in the sense that … there’s a bit of pressure on the plant-based industry at the moment and it’s forcing us to take a collective look at the quality of products.”
He added that consumers are “willing and eager to try these products, but the taste just isn’t there yet, and that is where a company like Nourish comes in” with specialty fats that help better reproduce the parts of animal proteins that “make it authentic.”
Two paths for producing animal-free fats
According to Petrie, there are two ways to replicate animal fats in plant-based proteins, but either way Nourish Ingredients needed help with production.
The first, and most popular currently, is to recreate from plants, such as coconut, the entire fat load, which might be 15-20% of a cut of meat. But this has limits, such as the harder fats are more difficult to distribute throughout the meat alternatives, they melt out of the product during cooking and they give off un-animalic smells that can be off-putting to consumers.
The second approach – which Nourish takes – is to recreate from plants and fungi the 5-10% of animal fat which is most responsible for the meaty profile of a product and blend that with other plant-based fats and oils to meet requirements for bulk and other qualities.
“We have come at this two different ways,” explained Petrie. “One of them is via synthetic biology,” which Petrie said he used in his previous position as a research scientist at Australia’s national science agency CSIRO to develop canola plants engineered to produce long-chain omega-3 fatty acids similar to those found in marine sources.
“The other way is we’ve gone out and looked in the wild populations of fungi and tried to understand what is the natural variation and find if any of these produce animal type fats. And the answer is yes. We found some by sending scientists out with shovels and digging up the dirt, which is how we found one in Canberra [Australia], which was awesome and has this animal type fat profile that gives off the same authentic meat-type taste and aroma when you cook it,” he said.
Through these two methods and by focusing on the “most potent” fats, Nourish is able to keep its costs of goods in check and limit capacity requirements because less of its ingredient is required to deliver the experience consumers want, Petrie said.
But, Petrie noted, the company stills needs help scaling production to fulfil regulatory requirements and eventually market demand, which is why he said Nourish has teamed with Boston Bioprocess.
Partnership with Boston Bioprocess will help Nourish meet regulatory requirements
Even though Nourish is still operating at a small scale to develop the batches necessary for regulatory approval, Petrie said the company wants to remain asset-light, which makes the scaling “quite challenging.”
“Having a company Boston Bioprocess, whose bread and butter is actually to churn these strains out and make sure that these fermentations are happening in a repeatable way is very valuable to a company like us,” he said.
Boston Bioprocess also appealed to Nourish because it not only has developed a scalable process but it also claims to have improved harvest yield twofold with a method other than the traditional centrifuge.
According to the companies, within the first three months, Boston Bioprocess successfully scaled the fermentation and downstream process for Nourish from bench to 1,500L.
“The first batch has completed quite satisfactorily and we’re very keen to push on” and pull together and submit the final regulatory data that is required from the fermentation runs underway with Boston Bioprocess, Petrie said.
Once regulatory approval is secured, Petrie said the two companies will determine how to scale to meet market demand, which he acknowledged “is something we are still figuring out.”