Fermented Cheese Alternatives Signal New Pillar Emerging in Animal-Free Products
An interesting article in Fast Company describes how, in a sea of meat-free and dairy-free alternatives, fermentation-based food and beverage solutions are gaining traction amid plant-based and lab-grown alternatives—potentially aided by the fact that many fermented alternatives are not new processes and may not need new technology.
Superbrewed Food is one of the latest entrants to the field, with a proprietary, microbe-based protein powder produced from the fermentation of a deactivated probiotic suitable for use in dairy-free or meat-free products. Current samples include mozzarella, cream cheese, and cheddar, and the company plans to go to market with its first products later this year. As describe in the article:
“Fermentation is emerging as another pillar in the meat- and dairy-alternative market, behind cultivated or lab-grown meat and the “tech” plant-based meats of Impossible and Beyond. Nature’s Fynd, which is making a fungus-based protein via fermentation, has raised a collective $158 million in funding. It’s not completely new—longtime vegetarian company Quorn uses fermentation for its protein, and fermented foods such as kimchi have been around for millennia—but microbial fermentation especially is “building the next generation of alternative protein products,” according to the Good Food Institute, a nonprofit working to speed up the innovation of alternative proteins.”
Superbrewed Food’s use of less industrial-sounding cues like “fermentation” to describe its processing techniques hints at the bigger consumer need it attempts to address—the desire for fresh, real food with personal and greater-good benefits. Fermentation represents an alternative production method to plant-based products with complex ingredient lists, heavy processing, commodity crops, and GMOs. According to our Food & Technology: From Plant-Based to Lab-Grown report, consuming plant-based alternatives to dairy and meat is becoming part of a mainstream narrative of what it means to “eat better.” For some consumers, this is an uncomplicated equation: “plant-based” means more vegetables, more natural, less processed eating. However, for those more engaged with the plant-based category (and with the world of health and wellness), there are clear compromises to eating plant-based analogues as many do bear the hallmarks of “processing,” particularly long ingredient lists and a reliance on highly commoditized crops like wheat and (potentially GMO) soy.
In addition to the personal and greater-good benefits of a potentially cleaner ingredient panel (if Superbrewed can deliver on its intentions) for animal-free protein powder, the zero-waste production process is also an opportunity to further meet consumer ideals of a sustainable food system, a smaller but still motivating factor as consumers turn to more plant-based and animal-free options.
Report: Health & Wellness 2021
Infographic: Going Plant-Based: Pathways to Adoption