According to a recently published in-depth consumer study that explores the future of animal-free dairy conducted by AMC Global for New Culture, which uses precision fermentation to make mozzarella minus the cows, found four out of five diners said they would buy the company’ animal-free mozzarella if it was available at their favorite pizzeria.
In addition, a sizeable portion of meat-eaters, as well as vegetarians and vegans, said they would try animal-free cheese – suggesting New Culture’s innovation could set a new standard for “alternative foods” and acceptance of food-tech.
In this episode of FoodNavigator-USA’s Soup-To-Nuts Podcast, New Culture VP Commercial Ben Freedman shares some of the surprising insights revealed by the research, which was published last week, including who is open to eating animal-free cheese, how much they are willing to pay and consumers prioritize values when making purchase decisions.
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New Culture: Animal-free dairy answers shortcomings of conventional, plant-based options
New Culture is among a handful of food-tech companies using precision fermentation to create real dairy with microbes instead of cows to disrupt the $38 billion cheese category, which it says is the only dairy category that is growing in the US and accounts for half the value of the US dairy market.
Freedman explains that the company wants to offer an alternative to traditional dairy cheese that is more sustainable, which he reports is a quality in food that two-thirds of consumers seek.
“At New Culture, we make animal-free dairy cheese, and we are starting with mozzarella, which we will be selling to pizzerias. … It is a vegan product, but because of the technology that we use, it is able to stretch and melt and do all of those thing that you would want and love about mozzarella,” but which current plant-based cheese offerings do not deliver, he said.
He added that animal-free dairy products also have a smaller environmental input because there are no animal inputs.
Who wants to try animal-free dairy?
According to New Culture’s survey, Freedman says a “resounding” 80% of respondents said they were interested in purchasing animal-free dairy. But notably it wasn’t just early adopters, vegans and adventure-seekers who wanted to try it – rather interested consumers ran the gamut.
“The early adopter cohort is the folks who were identified as that first target for us, and 97% of them are interested in purchasing our cheese,” but an additional 67% of skeptics said they too would be interested in buying New Culture’s mozzarella, Freedman said.
Likewise, 95% of the people interested in buying New Culture cheese eat meat, which “dispels a myth that we hear a lot in the food industry, which is vegan products or animal free products are this niche market that is very small, only 1-3% of the population…And for us, these findings just completely obliterate that myth,” he said.
Consumers are willing to pay more for animal-free dairy
Not only were most survey respondents eager to try New Culture’s animal-free mozzarella, but the survey also found many were willing to pay a sizeable premium over animal-based options.
“The early adopter consumers are willing to pay up to $4 more per pizza with New Culture mozzarella,” which is in the range of what consumers pay for plant-based meat and gluten-free crust, he said.
Potential consumers overlap with current plant-based shoppers
The primary motivators for consumers who said they wanted to try New Culture’s animal-free cheese – beyond curiosity – was a desire to choose a product that was better for the environment and animals.
Given that these motivators are also what push consumers to buy plant-based products, it comes as no surprise that many of respondents who said they would buy New Culture’s animal-free cheese already buy plant-based occasionally or regularly.
Armed with these insights, New Culture is preparing to launch its animal-free mozzarella in select pizzerias in Los Angeles this year, but has longer-term ambitions of selling its cheese through retail as well. It is confident in its ability to scale and meet demand thanks in part to trusted relationships with contract manufacturers and confidence in its production process.