NewMoo aims to revitalize slumping alt-cheese market with animal-free casein

By Ryan Daily

- Last updated on GMT

Source: NewMoo
Source: NewMoo

Related tags Casein Dairy alternatives molecular farming

Israel-based food-tech company NewMoo emerged from stealth this week to address alternative cheese taste and texture challenges with animal-free casein, company Co-founder and CEO Daphna Miller told FoodNavigator-USA.

Founded in 2021, NewMoo spent the last several years investing in research and development for its liquid casein, growing its team, raising funds and working through the patent approval process in several geographies — having already received patent approval in Australia — Miller explained. The company has raised $7 million in seeding funding, led by venture capital firms Lool and Zora.

NewMoo’s technology was developed from research that came out of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel. 

‘We can help farmers join the new revolution in food’

NewMoo uses plant molecular farming​ to create its animal-free casein, where soy plant seeds are genetically engineered to express two or more casein proteins — the primary protein found in animal-based dairy — Miller explained. Then, the seeds are grown in outdoor fields and harvested to create a liquid casein, which is hormone-, lactose- and cholesterol-free.

“The plant is just the host — look at the plant like a bioreactor. We are using it as a bioreactor, and our final target is actually to supply the liquid casein base for all the cheese industry in order for them to make the cheese like you know it," Miller said.

While it will provide its ingredient globally, NewMoo is focusing first on the US due to its regulatory framework and American farmers’ expertise in soy farming, including growing genetically modified soy plants, Miller explained.

"We know that we can help farmers join the new revolution in food, and the best farmers of soy plants are in the United States," she said.

Working with existing agriculture, dairy producer processes

Unlike biotech companies that require expensive facility build-outs to create protein, NewMoo does “not need to build factories to grow [its] casein,” instead it relies on the existing agriculture infrastructure to produce its protein.  

“We use fields as our production lines, and we use the current machinery and infrastructure of the food supply chain for our final milk liquid casein. ... The production line is very effective at the end, and it is almost endless because you can just add more seeds and get more liquid casein, as much as you need,” she said.

NewMoo does not purify the casein out of the soy plant, which provides cost-saving benefits compared to other animal-free casein products that might require an additional extraction process to obtain the protein, Miller explained.

Additionally, NewMoo’s casein does not require dairy producers to change their production processes to accommodate this animal-free dairy ingredient, she added. 

Can animal-free casein help the struggling alt-cheese market?

NewMoo enters the animal-free casein market — alongside other food tech companies like New Culture​, Imagindairy​ and others — as non-dairy cheese alternatives face sluggish demand and lower sales.   

The non-dairy cheese market represents only 2% of cheese sales in the US, Germany and the UK, according to Innova Market Insights Crafting the Future: US Trends in Dairy and Non-Dairy Cheese Innovation report​. However, non-dairy cheese saw product launches increased by 13.5% since 2019, according to the same report.

Typically, plant-based cheeses have failed to deliver on the sensory properties and functionality that consumers expect from cheese products, Miller said. However, food technology companies like NewMoo can provide casein, which represents about 80% of the proteins in dairy milk, to recreate the properties of animal-based cheeses and dairy products.

“Plant-protein cheese [has struggled] to bring the same sensation of aroma and taste and texture and nutritional values, and of course, the stretchiness and melting [like animal-based] cheese, and it is because it is almost impossible to do it with plant protein. In order to imitate the sensation, you need to have milk proteins,” Miller said.

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