By Yakir Benzion, United With Israel -
An Israeli startup announced a huge breakthrough Wednesday that could revolutionize the food industry and claim a huge chunk of the expanding market for non-animal dairy products.
Around the world, consumers are searching for replacements for meat and dairy products, but rice milk and almond cream are simply not good replacements for certain foods and beverages, like a slice of environmentally and animal-friendly New York cheesecake or half-and-half for your cup of hot coffee.
The Israeli startup Imagindairy developed a way to make true milk proteins that are indistinguishable from the real thing by using a natural process of precision fermentation.
Imagindairy’s proprietary technology recreates natural, but animal-free, versions of whey and casein proteins that can be used to produce dairy dairy products like cheese, but with no need for cows.
The company says their whey and proteins have the same flavor and texture – and most importantly, the functionality and nutritional value – of their animal-based counterparts.
This opens new opportunities to develop a full range of non-dairy dairy products that perfectly mimic the products made with cow milk, yet contain no cholesterol or genetically modified organisms.
And because they are not made from animal milk they are also lactose-free and can be served to consumers who have lactose intolerance or sensitivity.
Imagindairy says another benefit is that by using plant materials to create their dairy lookalikes, the new technology “radically lowers the burden of dairy livestock on the environment.”
“Our microflora-based production method was inspired by nature to recreate these proteins,” said Imagindairy founder and CEO Dr. Eyal Afergan. “The unique protein structure of dairy milk is what provides its characteristic texture, flavor, and nutritional value. Whey is a key source of highly biologically available protein. Imagindairy’s animal-free dairy products boast the same complement of nutrients, from protein content to mineral composition, including calcium.”
With the growing awareness of animal welfare and the environmental impact of animal farming, more supermarket shelf space is being dedicated to alternative plant-based milk and dairy analogs.
But Afergan noted that those plant-based dairy alternatives are falling far short of meeting consumers’ sensory demands.
“Our vision was to deliver an animal-free version of the primary dairy proteins — whey and casein — that can allow product makers to match real dairy products in terms of protein concentration, nutrient profile, and the full sensory experiences of the animal-derived versions,” said Afergan. “I look forward to being able to give my kids such treats as a cup of nutritious, tasty milk or creamy yogurt without the hard impact on animals or on the environment they must inherit.”
Imagindairy’s unique technology is based on 15 years of research by Professor Tamir Tuller of Tel Aviv University who works on advancing high yield protein production.
“We developed an advanced protein production platform that allows us to optimize every step in creating milk proteins,” said Tuller, who co-founded Imagindairy. “This allowed us to achieve the yield that is needed to achieve commercial production.”
Imagindairy says its technology can be readily integrated into existing dairy food production facilities and the startup already raised $1.5 million in seed funding with another round of funding on the way.
A recent report by Grand View Research in the U.S. predicted the global dairy alternatives market size is expected to reach $52 billion by 2028, with an annual growth of rate of 12.5%, meaning that Imagindairy’s technology has huge potential.