Cell Based Tech and the Rapidly Growing Plant Based Food Industry


Although tried and true vegan staples like tofu stir fry, lentils and falafel have served plant based eaters well over the years, the options and palates for new age plant based eaters are transforming. The concept of plant based foods with animal based textures and flavors is becoming a phenomenon. It turns out, consumers desire and crave the savory umami juiciness of a hamburger. Add a little “healthy” and “good for the environment”, and you’ve got a recipe that is attracting even the meatiest of meat lovers.

Cue, cell based tech, referred to as cellular fermentation in the food science world. It’s the technology that is opening the culinary flood gates to this fantastical world of plant-based products that look and taste strikingly close to the “real thing”. Imagine Willy Wonka’s factory, but replace candy with plants, and Oompa Loompas with scientific foodies.

Cellular fermentation works by taking DNA molecules and inserting them into bacteria or yeast and fermenting the molecules. This process of inserting DNA into yeast is a form of genetic engineering that can yield proteins identical to the DNA of the starting material.

Many companies and investors are jumping on board and using cellular fermentation to cultivate proteins sans animals. Some of the more novel companies are turning to new food and protein sources altogether, such as Sustainable Bioproducts. They are working with microorganisms from Yellowstone National Park that are high in protein and can be finagled into many common products like veggie burgers or yogurt. Another company, Motif Ingredients, is engineering foods like sturgeon eggs and camel milk — an effort to promote biodiversity in our diets.

One company, New Culture, based in New Zealand is looking to more common products that consumers know and love like creamy cheese with the perfect stretch across the top of your pizza slice. New Culture plans to make cow cheese without the cow (sign up to be on their waitlist). According to Co-Founder/CEO Matt Gibson, New Culture is taking the essential proteins that give dairy cheese its unique properties and delicious flavor and sustainably producing these proteins with the help of microbes. “From there we add plant-based lipids, sugars and minerals to make a vegan cheese that has all the properties of dairy cheese without any of the unsustainable and unhealthy drawbacks. Our first product is fresh Mozzarella,” said Gibson. Some of these health features include no cholesterol, very little to no saturated fats, and lactose-free.

The overall impact of cellular fermentation on the plant-based industry has incredible potential for products like New Culture’s plant based mozzarella. “Cellular fermentation is key for us to be able to produce these fundamental proteins that don’t just provide taste but also the meltability, the texture and all the other traits we love about dairy cheese” said Gibson.

Scientists are quickly realizing how to isolate and produce animal proteins that enable umami, juicy, ooey gooey flavors and textures without animals and without traditional agriculture methods. When produced in a controlled lab setting, these proteins can be specifically tailored from a nutritional perspective and utilized in a variety of plant-based products, making them nearly indistinguishable from the “real thing”.

Does the future of food sound a bit grandiose through cell based tech? Where does that leave falafel, lentils, and tofu stir fry?

Author: Brooke Sunness
Published by: Cell Based Tech

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