Nobell Foods is a plant-based cheesemaker that recently received $75 million in a Series B funding round. They now have total funds of $100 million. Some of the investors in the funding round include Andreessen Horowitz, Bill Gates’s Breakthrough Energy Ventures and Robert Downey Jr.’s FootPrint Coalition Ventures.
This cheese is different from other plant-based cheeses because the start-up uses genetically engineered soybeans to produce plant-based casein. The taste and stretch of dairy cheese are due to the casein found in milk products.
“Milk is water, fat, sugar, and protein, and in order to re-create that delicious mouthfeel, texture, everything that we love about it, we really need to have these specific proteins that are only produced by cows after they give birth,” said Magi Richani, the founder of Nobell Foods. “We discovered a way to basically turn plants into little factories for making casein, so you don’t have to get it from a cow. You can get it from our plants.”
Nobell Foods’ plant-based cheese will provide consumers with the same experience as real cheese without compromising taste or texture.
“It was just so freaking hard,” Richani told Fast Company. “I couldn’t find anything out there that would satisfy that bite of cheese on a pizza, or in a grilled cheese sandwich. And I tried every single plant-based cheese out there.”
Other companies, such as Remilk, make dairy proteins in a lab that mimic the natural versions from milk, but alter them to make them vegan, lactose-free, cholesterol-free cheeses. Another company in the space is Perfect Day, a start-up based in the San Francisco Bay Area that makes milk proteins that are identical to dairy proteins through fermentation.
Nevertheless, Nobell Foods uses a plant-based process to make casein because it has a lower cost of production. Richani said that they use plants because they are the cheapest form of protein they can get. In addition, they are using specifically soybeans to make protein because they are efficient and have been genetically modified to produce casein.
“We’re not going to change the system by asking people to pay two, three, five, ten times more for the alternative, right? Plants are the cheapest way to make proteins, and if we can change their profile, so they’re making any protein we want, we can compete with a cow,” Richani added.
Eventually, the company wants to provide consumers with a plant-based cheese option that does not compromise on taste, texture, or cost, therefore directly competing with the animal-based cheese industry. With the new funding received by Nobell Foods, the company hopes to commercialize its first product over the next two years. Additionally, they are looking to grow soybean fields past California and into the Midwest. The company said they will target restaurants first upon launch of their product, such as pizza chains, to show consumers that the cheese is exactly how they expect it to taste.