Is Vegan Casein the Next Big Plant-Based Innovation?

Is Vegan Casein the Next Big Plant-Based Innovation?

A Dutch startup recently developed a vegan version of casein, a naturally occurring protein found in cow’s milk.

Fooditive Group, a plant-based ingredient manufacturer, recently developed a vegan version of casein, one of the main animal proteins in milk. The Dutch startup used precision fermentation to create vegan casein, making it possible to replace cow’s milk in dairy products without losing flavor, texture or quality.

In developing the vegan casein, Fooditive aims to eradicate the downsides of factory farming, antibiotics, hormones and lactose. Factory farming requires large amounts of water to be effective, increases the risks of animal cruelty and poses environmental concerns. And while cow’s milk is a good source of protein and calcium, other ingredients and additives, like natural growth hormones and lactose, can make it hard to digest.

“Making healthy and affordable food for everyone means that we simply need to target every aspect of our diet, and animal-free products should definitely be a part of it,” said Moayad Abushokhedim, founder and CEO of Fooditive, in a press release. “Delivering ingredients that have been produced sustainably is the main key to a long-lasting future that can support the growing human population.”

Related: Mooless: The Newest Animal-Free Whey Protein Competing in the Market

So, what is casein? Casein is a naturally occurring protein found in milk that gives it its white color, flavor and creamy texture. It also accounts for about 80 percent of milk’s total structure. In addition to milk, casein protein is found in a variety of dairy products including yogurt, cheese and infant formulas, as well as in a variety of dietary supplements.

Casein is also responsible for giving cheese its meltable, stretchable and bubbling qualities. It makes the consistency of cheese difficult to replicate in a non-dairy fashion. Without casein, cheese may look and even taste similar, but it won’t melt the same. This is where Fooditive’s vegan casein could be a game-changer.

With precision fermentation, the company can make an exact replica of any animal protein without changing its taste, texture or quality. “For example, most people are not enthusiastic about plant-based cheese because it just doesn’t taste as full and delicious as cheese made from cow’s milk,” Abushokhedim told Innovation Origins. “Our plant-based casein will change that. So, it is not only a revolution for the industry but also for people themselves. The choice for vegan and sustainable products becomes much easier this way.”

Fooditive’s vegan casein is also suitable for a variety of applications from milk to creams, yogurt and cheeses. The company claims the ingredient will be the first vegan casein available for use in the food and beverage industry, with plans to debut the ingredient this year. However, Fooditive isn’t the only company working to take the cows out of the dairy equation.

Belgium-based Those Vegan Cowboys is also using precision fermentation to reinvent all cheese varieties for the sake of the planet. Motivated by a lack of good vegan cheese options, the startup began exploring ways to create vegan caseins using fermentation and gene-splicing techniques. San Francisco-based startup New Culture also made use of precision fermentation for its plan to launch a dairy-identical vegan mozzarella in 2023.

Although Fooditive may have some competition in the vegan casein space, being first to market may give the company the competitive advantage it needs to fulfill its goal of feeding everyone in a healthy, sustainable way.