The products – which are set to launch within 12 months, pending regulatory approval – will feature Remilk’s whey protein (beta-lactoglobulin), made via a genetically engineered strain of yeast via precision fermentation, co-founder and CEO Aviv Wolff told FoodNavigator-USA .
“CBC plans to market these products to mainstream consumers and not a niche consumer segment. Therefore, we expect to see them on dairy shelves as animal-free dairy products alongside traditional products.”
I added: “The official approval in Israel is granted by the Israeli Ministry of Health, in a similar process to that conducted by the FDA. We’re in the midst of the approval process.”
World’s largest precision fermentation facility
However, Remilk also has US ambitions, and has recently obtained self-affirmed GRAS status for its beta-lactoglobulin and submitted its GRAS notification to the FDA.
Buoyed by a $120m series B funding round, the company is now planning what it claims is the world’s largest precision fermentation facility in Kalundborg, Denmark.
The facility will use an (as yet undisclosed) ‘non-agricultural land source’ of sugars as a carbon source to feed its microbes, said Wolff.
“We estimate we will have cost parity production in Denmark, meaning we’re going to sell our proteins at the same price that it costs dairy farmers to produce milk proteins, already in 2024. We have seen a tremendous increase in the last few years in our ability to compete with animal farming from a cost perspective. And moving forward, we believe that cost will continue to decrease, so eventually we’ll see pricing that is actually cheaper than animal dairy.”
Feedstock: A ‘non-agricultural’ source of carbon
The feedstock for the microbes is “proprietary information, but it’s not coming from agricultural land. We are talking about an extremely widely available carbon source which is not agricultural and it’s very cheap,” Wolff said.
I have added: “The yeast we’re using was never used to digest this type of carbon source and we’ve done something unique by engineering the yeast so that it can digest this specific carbon source. We believe this is a huge advantage we have compared to other companies in the space.
“Each microbial system has its pros and cons when producing recombinant dairy proteins, but we are confident that Remilk’s protein is of remarkable purity and quality, and is cost efficient, which we owe in large part to the incredible capabilities of our proprietary yeast.”
While Remilk’s first dairy protein is beta-lactoglobulin, it is also capable of producing other whey proteins (alpha lactalbumin) and several casein proteins, said Wolff.
“We are working on several different microbial systems. So for each protein we are tailoring a specific system. Sometimes it is yeast, sometimes it’s a bacteria or fungus.”
Monetizing side streams
Remilk is also exploring multiple opportunities to monetize the by-product/side streams from the fermentation, he said. I have explained, “for production of beta-lactoglobulin, the side stream is yeast, and ours is really the highest quality you can find, nearly 60% protein, and high in fiber.”
As the yeast strain in question secretes the proteins, the downstream harvesting and purification process is “basically using industrial filtering systems because the diameter of the yeast is bigger than the dairy protein,” I have explained.
“We end up with an extremely pure protein, without the need for additional purification steps. It’s unique in the precision fermentation space.”
Casein via precision fermentation: ‘Getting yeast to produce folding proteins, it’s not a trivial thing to do’
Making casein proteins is more complex, he said, noting that when produced by cows, casein proteins fold up into a spherical ‘micelle’ structure so that the proteins remain suspended indefinitely in the liquid.
“Getting yeast to produce folding proteins, it’s not a trivial thing to do. There are ways to overcome those challenges. But I believe it’s really a matter of six months, 12 months, before we scale up these [casein] proteins as well. You also don’t need to be able to make all of the casein proteins. We can use sometimes even only a single subset of protein, and still get the same functional casein micelle that can be formulated to make mozzarella.
“We’re basically trying to mimic the process [that takes place in a cow to produce micelles]. It’s a relatively simple process that involves the formulation of minerals and caseins in specific conditions.”
But, I have added, “even with whey protein alone, there is a huge opportunity when it comes to soft cheeses, ice cream, yogurt, and milk.”
The business model at Remilk
Asked about the business model at Remilk, Wolff said: “We founded Remilk with the vision of not building a niche vegan product but transitioning animal farming to precision fermentation and today, we believe the only way to achieve this is by working with existing CPG brands that already control the market.”