July 15, 2024
Cultivated Biosciences poised to take its yeast cream to market in 2025

Products derived from animals have that familiar taste and texture, and replicating that with fermented and plant-based alternatives has been a challenge for some companies.

Dairy, in particular, is an area where you have to get that “creaminess” texture but without the real cream. Cultivated Biosciences, a Swiss biotechnology food startup, says it has solved this with the development of its yeast cream, derived from a specific type of oleaginous yeast, which mimics the texture and mouthfeel of traditional cream.

In 2022, the company raised a $1.5 million pre-seed round. At the time, it had developed the fat-rich ingredient with the texture and stability of dairy-free products, which also replaces additives and maintains taste quality.

The company’s technology involves yeast biomass fermentation. Unlike precision fermentation that tries to replicate proteins on a molecular level, biomass fermentation uses the high-protein content and rapid growth of microorganisms to make protein-rich food. This method is also non-GMO and is easier to scale, said Lucie Rein, chief commercial officer at Cultivated Biosciences. Rein joined the company in March 2023.

Rein explained that the yeast cream contains fats, proteins and fibers — all from the yeast — and features a “microstructure” of yeast lipid droplets that resemble milk fat droplets. Cultivated Biosciences is designing its end product to go into consumer products, for example, like coffee creamers, milk and ice cream.

The company went public in December with its first proof-of-concept coffee creamer, which Rein said is rather difficult to get right. That’s because when adding creamer to coffee, it has to maintain the creamy consistency, taste and color.

“It’s extremely hard to replicate something that is stable in coffee because coffee is both very hot and very acidic,” Rein told TechCrunch. “When you pour it into your coffee, it has to remain completely stable. So that’s what we did, and this was a game changer for us. We also replaced the whitening agents, so we actually replace everything, and we stay stable.”

Over the past year, Cultivated Biosciences has worked on scaling. In 2022, it was producing 5 or 10 liters of its cream. Today, that is 1,500 liters with the potential to go up to 80,000 liters with its production partners, Rein said.

Dairy continues to attract attention from entrepreneurs and investors. In January, Perfect Day raised a pre-Series E financing round of up to $90 million. It uses precision fermentation, as does Better Dairy and New Culture, to make its milk proteins. In February, Miruku grabbed $5 million for its plant-based dairy. There’s also Brown Foods, which is developing cell-cultured “cowless” milk in a lab.

Cultivated Biosciences is joining them, having raised another $5 million recently. Navus Ventures led the investment round and was joined by Founderful (previously known as Wingman Ventures), HackCapital and Lukas Böni, the founder of Planted. The round also introduced new investors, including Joyful VC, Mandi Ventures and Zürcher Kantonalbank.

The company is now in the midst of talking with food service companies with the goal of taking its product to market in 2025 in the United States, pending U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval, Rein said.

“We are in the midst of running trials with the big key accounts of the industry,” Rein said. “Once we have their sign of approval, we can also start to contact smaller, local companies in the U.S. That we are actually already in touch with the key accounts is a sign that our approach is interesting, and now, of course, they want to test the ingredients in several rounds of trials.”

Have a juicy tip or lead about happenings in the venture world? Send tips to Christine Hall at chall.techcrunch@gmail.com.

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