The AI Assisted Discovery of Plant-Based Casein makes “Real” Vegan Cheese from Plants
Casein is a protein in milk that gives cheese its characteristic texture and flavor. The recent AI-powered discovery of plant-based casein shows it has a similar structure to dairy casein, which means it can be used to make vegan cheese virtually identical to dairy cheese.
Climax Foods is a California, USA-based company founded in 2019 to create plant-based foods that are indistinguishable from their animal-based counterparts. The company uses artificial intelligence to identify and isolate plant-based proteins that can be used to make new vegan food products. Their first, a plant-based casein, is made from a proprietary blend of plant proteins that are fermented to create a product that has the same structure, function, and taste as dairy casein.
Casein accounts for roughly 80% of the protein in milk, cheese, and yogurt and is sold as a protein dietary supplement used by athletes to promote exercise recovery and increase strength. Casein is also commonly found in baby formulas.
Climax Foods’ plant-based casein is free of hormones, antibiotics, or top food allergens. Their process allows them to produce this protein sustainably, at scale and a similar price to dairy casein. With industrial animal agriculture contributing to global warming and depleting the Earth’s resources, this scientific breakthrough represents a significant win for the planet and a milestone for adoption of dairy alternatives.
“As foodies and scientists, we have a profound appreciation for the complex flavors and textures of dairy products, but also recognize their vast inefficiencies—such as requiring 700 gallons of water to make one pound of cheese,” Climax CEO and Founder Oliver Zahn said in a statement “Our production process uses 500 times less water at our current pilot scale.”
Food experts have praised the company’s plant-based casein; in 2022, the company’s plant-based casein was awarded the “Most Innovative Ingredient” award at the Food Expo West trade show. The company has also partnered with the French dairy giant Bel Group to develop vegan versions of some of its most popular cheeses, such as the Laughing Cow and Boursin. These are expected to reach the consumer market by the end of 2024.
See also: Peta Launches $1m Competition for Vegan Wool.
A Big Market
The global vegan cheese market is expected to grow at a rate of 10.6% from 2021 to 2028. The growth of the vegan cheese market is being driven by a number of factors, including increasing awareness of the environmental impact of dairy production, growing health concerns about dairy products, and the increasing popularity of plant-based diets.
But Climax Foods is just one of a few companies in the vegan cheese game. New Culture is a San Francisco-based company that was founded in 2018 with the mission to create sustainable, animal-free dairy products using precision fermentation. Precision fermentation is a process that uses microbes to produce proteins and other substances. New Culture says that its plant-based casein is “identical” to dairy casein in terms of its structure, function, and taste.
New Culture’s plant-based casein is made using a proprietary strain of yeast that has been genetically engineered to produce casein. The yeast is grown in a fermentation tank, and the casein is then extracted and purified. The company says that its plant-based casein is lactose-free, gluten-free, and vegan.
New Culture’s plant-based casein is still in the early stages of development, but the company has plans to launch its first products in 2023. New Culture is currently in the process of scaling up its production capacity. The company has also been working on developing new products that use its precision fermentation technology.
Once New Culture vegan cheese is available for purchase, it is likely to be available through a variety of channels, including online retailers and specialty food stores. The company has also said that it is in talks with some major food manufacturers about using its precision fermentation technology in their products.
Here are some of the benefits of using plant-based casein to make vegan cheese:
- It is vegan and cruelty-free. Plant-based casein is made from plants, so it is vegan and cruelty-free. This makes it a good option for people who are looking for vegan alternatives to dairy cheese.
- It has a similar texture and flavor to dairy cheese. Plant-based casein has a similar texture and flavor to dairy cheese. This means that vegan cheeses made with plant-based casein can be indistinguishable from dairy cheeses.
- It is lactose-free and gluten-free. Plant-based casein is lactose-free and gluten-free. This makes it a good option for people who are lactose intolerant or have celiac disease.
The development of plant-based casein is a major breakthrough for the vegan food industry. It means that cheese makers can now create vegan cheeses that are indistinguishable from dairy cheeses. This will undoubtedly make vegan cheese more mainstream and appeal to a wider range of consumers.