The vegan cheese market is quickly closing in on the dairy industry, as companies trade animal-based products for plant-based alternatives. General Mills just unveiled its first vegan cheese brand entitled Bold Cultr that will use animal-free whey to create a dairy-identical cheese product. The company boasts that its new vegan cheese brand will be able to replicate the taste and texture with remarkable precision due to its dairy-identical ingredients.
Bold Cultr will lead with a plain vegan cream cheese product for its market debut. The brand also announced that it is currently developing a wider product selection that will feature two new cream cheese flavors and vegan cheese slices and shreds. The company intends to produce vegan cheese products that can compete with both the conventional dairy industry and the rapidly expanding list of plant-based dairy products.
General Mills’ innovative food brand is working closely with the food tech company Perfect Day – the company famous for developing the proprietary method to replicate cow-based whey without animal slaughter. Perfect Day produces an animal-free whey by using a precision fermentation process that manipulates microflora to form a cow’s protein blueprint. The microflora protein is essentially identical to the protein found in dairy milk.
Founded by Laura Engstrom, Illeme Amegatcher, and Drake Ellingboe, Bold Cultr uses Perfect Day’s animal-free whey to create a variety of vegan products. The food tech company incorporates the animal-free whey to traditional cheesemaking techniques to create a vegan cheese product that is essentially indistinguishable from its animal-based counterpart. The company aims to reach consumers that feel disappointed by current dairy alternatives by providing a sustainable alternative that maintains the taste and texture of conventional, animal-based products.
“With the rise of plant-based and flexitarian diets, there is a need for a cheese alternative that has the same taste, texture, and functionality as dairy cheese,” Engstrom said on General Mills’ blog. “Many of the consumers we talked to want to be animal-free but cheese is holding them back—the alternatives aren’t doing what consumers want them to. We’re excited to reimagine what cheese can be and tackle this consumer problem head-on.”
Bold Cultr joined the General Mills internal accelerator unit – a program dedicated to assisting start-ups and entrepreneurs with advanced and inventive technologies – to expand its production capabilities and perfect its new dairy-identical products. General Mills first tested the animal-free whey products earlier this year through the Renegade Creamery products. The company noticed positive reviews and worked to expand the Bold Cultr brand.
“The innovations coming out of our G-Works teams are an example of General Mills truly thinking differently about how we innovate. It starts with solving real consumer problems, developing breakthrough solutions—and then fueling those brands using the scale and capabilities of General Mills to accelerate their growth,” Chief Disruptive Growth Officer Doug Martin said on General Mills’ blog. “This first product from Bold Cultr is proof positive that we’re finding new ways to test and learn outside of our core portfolio and in a whitespace of the food industry.”
This fresh innovation from General Mills signifies a greater shift in the alternative dairy market. Although several smaller brands have been working for decades to develop dairy alternatives, larger companies like General Mills and Danone have recently joined the plant-based movement. A recent report from Global Market Insights found that the dairy alternatives market is slated to reach $45 billion by 2027 with an unprecedented 10 percent CAGR. Consumer demand is rapidly motivating more multinational food companies to adapt to the changing market.
The consumer shift is much more expansive than previously predicted. The Journal of Nutritional Education and Behavior published a study that examine why consumers have decided to drop conventional dairy in place for alternative options. The report revealed that nearly 30 percent of consumers cited that environmental concerns which motivated them to reduce animal-based product consumption. The report also explains how animal agriculture is linked directly to the worsening climate crisis.
Perfect Day’s animal-free whey boasts a slaughter-free alternative, but the company also emphasizes the sustainable benefits to its process, explaining that its animal-free whey reduces water consumption by 99 percent, non-renewable energy consumption by 60 percent, and greenhouse gas emissions by 97 percent when compared to animal-produced dairy.
The brand’s partnership with General Mills is only the latest of a growing list of products incorporating animal-free whey. Perfect Day entered the market through its commercial arm The Urgent Company, producing animal-free cheese through its Modern Kitchen brand and dairy-identical ice cream through Brave Robot. Recently, Brave Robot announced that it sold 1 million pints of its animal-free ice cream, claiming it helped save the equivalent of 1 million miles of C02 emissions.
“When we first started this almost eight years ago, we had the simple goal of creating a way to make dairy without animals,” Co-founder and CEO of Perfect Day Ryan Pandya said. “We quickly realized that we could maximize our positive impact for the planet and the global food system by applying our technology and know-how across the supply chain.”
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