Imagindairy, an animal-free dairy protein maker, is one step closer to commercializing cow-free milk. But we’re not talking about plant-based milk alternatives like soy or oat milk. We’re talking about milk with dairy proteins. Imagindairy seemingly answered the age-old question: why buy the cow when the milk is free?
The Tel Aviv-based food tech company developed a proprietary technology to produce dairy proteins without the cow by leveraging natural precision fermentation. Using this approach allows Imagindairy to replicate real milk proteins — including, casein and whey, two of the key compounds responsible for the taste, texture and other properties of cow’s milk and its derivatives.
Simply put, fermentation is the process in which a substance breaks down into a simpler substance. It’s what makes bread rise, yogurt thicken and gives beer its fizz. In this case, instead of feeding cows, the new approach involves feeding microorganisms that can be up to 20 times more efficient than a cow’s system in turning feed into human food.
Based on a system and synthetic biology platform, the technology allows manufacturers to produce cow-free, sustainable dairy products with all the natural values of real milk. Although it hasn’t made its debut in the market yet, Imagindairy recently closed a $13 million seed round to commercialize cow-free milk proteins.
Since no cows are involved in the milk-making process, Imagindairy can avoid many of the environmental problems, including greenhouse gas emissions, associated with traditional dairy cattle production. But there’s also the ethical part of the equation, which is increasingly important to many consumers. Since consumers want the sensation of real milk without harming animals, Imaginadairy’s proteins provide the best of both worlds.
Along similar lines, Perfect Day, another company with regulatory approval for a new animal-free milk protein, developed its first product, ice cream, in 2019. Since then, a growing number of brands and products are using Perfect Day’s animal-free protein from flora to make their products, including ice cream maker Brave Robot.
Like Perfect Day, Imagindairy is currently collaborating with dairy companies, offering a complete range or dairy proteins. With a growing demand for more sustainable alternatives to traditional agriculture, dairy companies are eager to dip their toes into the world of precision fermentation. That’s why Imagindairy’s go-to market strategy is business-to-business (B2B).
But how will consumers respond to yet another milk on the market? “Once we reach commercialization, more consumers will be able to enjoy eating animal-free dairy products” said Eyal Afergan, co-founder and CEO of Imagindairy, in a press release. “It’s hard for people to make big changes, especially when it comes to the foods they enjoy, but when there’s an alternative with the same flavor and experience that is more aligned to their values, it becomes easy.”
Whether consumers are ready or not, Imagindairy expects to launch its dairy free proteins by 2023. It will join South Africa’s De Novo Dairy, which is Africa’s first precision fermentation dairy startup. De Novo Dairy and Imagindairy are joining the growing number of startups around the world using pioneering precision fermentation to create dairy proteins identical to those found in nature.