Biotech innovator launches vegan casein for better “meltability and stretchiness”

Four vegan cheese slices, bread and oats on a brown table.
(Image credit: Pureture).

23 Aug 2023 — Pureture has formulated plant-based casein that “fully replicates” the taste, texture and function of traditional protein. The non-GMO protein can be used in alternative dairy products such as cheese, milk and yogurt, has no taste, color or smell and comes at a time when the dairy-free dairy space is trying to replicate the critical functions needed to bring vegan cheese closer to its dairy counterpart.

The US-based biotechnology company has recreated casein using yeast-based, entirely plant-based materials that offer comparable functionality to milk, a “better taste and nutrition panel” and sustainable and lower-priced ingredients.

Rudy Yoo, founder and CEO of Pureture tells FoodIngredientsFirst: “This is a great contribution to the creation of a “clean label” that does not involve unnecessary ingredients in plant based dairy products and we hope that it will be accepted as a new innovation in the market in the future.”

“We’re laser-focused on developing materials and technologies for essential food changes that will provide us with a richer and long-lasting food culture,” he adds.

With this new innovation, the company is “thrilled” to introduce a product that ensures the joy of dairy flavor and texture remains while delivering a cleaner label and contributing to a more sustainable future.

Bottlenecks to the “actual cheese” feel
Pizza with a slice being picked up.Casein is responsible for the characteristic pull and stretch in cheese.Casein is responsible for the characteristic pull and stretch in cheese, a crucial challenge for the alt-dairy ingredient sector.

According to key dairy ingredient suppliers, developing plant-based options for yogurt, cheese, beverages and other applications takes ingredient and processing know-how.

Pureture further flags the problems that vegan cheeses in today’s market face.

Operative aspects of cheese, like “meltability and stretchiness,” are often missing from vegan cheeses due to binding elements. This “limits” the level of protein that can be added to vegan cheese. 

FoodIngredientsFirst recently spoke to food technicians at International Food & Fragrances (IFF), who highlighted the lack of flexitarians’ consumer satisfaction when it comes to the current plant-based market offerings.

Pureture claims that its vegan casein “replicates” the critical functions needed to bring vegan cheese closer to its dairy counterpart. It can also help formulators develop plant-based cheese that is “cleaner” than other alternatives.

Furthermore, the animal-free casein does away with adding “starches, gums and emulsifiers” to manufacture plant-based cheese.

Pureture (formerly Armored Fresh Technologies) also flags that it can price its casein at a “lower cost than the market average,” owing to its proprietary technology and method of production.

Enabling clean casein through tech
Plant-based cheese and bread on a plate and packed boxes, with a small flag on a stick.Pureture (formerly Armored Fresh Technologies) ensures the “joy of dairy flavor” and texture remains with a cleaner label.(Image credit: Pureture).Opportunities in the alternative dairy sphere are thriving, with consumers demanding more variety and a balance of taste, texture, nutrition and sustainability.

“Pureture’s yeast emulsified protein manufacturing process involves yeast cultivation, strain enrichment, protein separation, emulsification functionality floatation, followed by sterilization and drying,” Yoo tells us.   

Before Pureture created the vegan casein, additives such as emulsifiers, starch and gums were artificially used to “solve impossible emulsifying functions in plant proteins”, notes Yoo. 

“It was not easy to make clean labels because there was no casein protein that could completely replace this function. Just as the electric vehicle market has created a different inflection point with battery technology, now our technology is being evaluated as an absolutely necessary technology in vegan dairy products.”

At the IFT FIRST event we covered, alt-dairy products such as rich and creamy vegan alternatives to cream cheeses, ice cream and custards were prevalent, which evidences the global demand for plant-based concepts and innovations.

Alt-protein manufacturers are stepping up their game to stay ahead of the competition.

For instance, Climax Foods leverages data science and AI to create animal-free products from plant ingredients that can successfully replicate animal casein’s functionality, texture and taste, including its melt and stretch.

Furthermore, Fooditive uses precision fermentation to formulate vegan casein from proprietary bacterial strains to make vegan casein that is “genetically identical” to dairy casein.

Last year, Bel Group joined forces with Standing Ovation to leverage precision fermentation technology to incorporate dairy-free casein protein in Bel’s alternative cheese offerings.

Food for the future
Pureture flags the promising future of plant-based dairy alternatives.

“Clean labels featuring unaltered and untouched proteins with plant-based alternatives are the future of food,” says the company.

Cream, cheese and milk in white bowl and jar.The non-GMO protein can be used in alternative dairy products such as cheese, milk and yogurt.It plans to collaborate with major dairy companies to “co-brand” its plant-based casein and partner with global ingredients vendors to expand its usage. 

As climate change (carbon reduction) accelerates and global food scarcity becomes more pronounced, the adoption of alternative dairy products appears “poised to expand”, says Yoo. 

He points out that despite this potential, the penetration of alternative dairy products remains “relatively low”, accounting for less than 5% of the total market. 

“Furthermore, as the issues of lactose intolerance (affecting 68% of the global population) and concerns regarding cholesterol persist, the alternative dairy market is set to gain increasing attention,” he remarks.  

“Assisting corporations in the transition to plant-based casein goes beyond the product and includes revolutionizing label transparency,” notes the innovator.

Animal-free dairy protein may be a prominent food ingredient in the coming years, with Imagindairy recently receiving self-affirmed GRAS status for its animal-free protein.

The demand for dairy-free products is encouraging formulators to innovate, with Standing Ovation telling us last year that consumers crave “non-animal” cheeses that taste like cheese.

Moreover, for a healthier environment in the future, the food system demands transformation that hinges on plant-based diets and not methane-busting feed solutions.

Consumers’ eagerness to try plant-based alternatives offers a ray of hope for even better prospects for alt-dairy, with Innova’s Market Insights’ fourth Top Ten Trend for 2023 “Plant-Based: Unlocking a New Narrative” data indicating that two-thirds of its global survey respondents expressed a desire to try plant-based versions of traditional and local cuisines.

“Despite the various challenges that lie ahead, we are confident that the external interest and technological investments directed towards us will ultimately make a substantial and exponential impact on this market,” Yoo concludes.

Pureture plans to conduct an IPO (Initial Public Offering) in the United States, either on the NYSE or NASDAQ, during the years 2027 to 2028.

By Insha Naureen

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