June 4

A food-tech startup in Israel has created a cow-free version of casein, the protein needed to give cheese its ‘real’ dairy texture.

NewMoo (originally Imagene Foods) uses plant molecular farming (PMF) to produce a sustainable, cost-effective and vegan-friendly version of the solid dairy product.

Non-dairy cheese alternatives have been around for a long time — breakfast cereal inventor John Harvey Kellogg developed a soy-based “cheese” product back in 1937 — but even 21st century non-dairy cheeses haven’t achieved the taste, texture, aroma or melting properties of the real thing; largely because they don’t contain casein.

Meanwhile, the global cheese market has been valued at $135 billion annually and is projected to reach $220 billion by 2028; and the demand for non-dairy alternatives is growing, with 42 per cent of consumers identifying as flexitarian (largely vegetarian, with occasional lapses into meat-eating). 

That’s why the ability to produce a plant-based version of casein — the holy grail of the alternative milk industry — could be a game changer.

Founded in 2021, NewMoo describes its proteins as “literally identical to animal-derived caseins,” minus the lactose and cholesterol, and is one of the first companies in the world to produce animal-free caseins.

NewMoo grows its casein source in a field using genetically engineered seeds then uses a special process to turn it into a liquid. They describe the actual process as “top secret” and won’t provide detail of the crop they use, though it is known that the concept and technology are based on research carried out at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot.

The company’s team — which includes former Nestle, Tnuva and Strauss execs and molecular science PhDs from The Technion – Israel Institute of Technology — has been working for years on turning that research into a marketable product, backed by $7 million in seed funding.

“Our animal-free liquid casein mimics all the functional traits of real milk protein for crafting cheese the traditional way,” said Daphna Miller, NewMoo’s CEO.

She said their caseins can form the basis for a cheese with the exact melting and stretching behaviour as animal dairy cheese, together with the typical aroma, flavour and texture.

They also allow for an efficient, cost-effective process that “sets the cow free from the industrial milk production process,” says the company.

“Unlike protein powders, the NewMoo liquid casein is production-ready, helping streamline production and go-to-market,” said Miller. “This means it can seamlessly replace dairy milk in any dairy cheese manufacturing facility without the need for any special equipment or reconfiguration of existing equipment.”

The fact that NewMoo grows its casein source as a crop is significant. Other companies developing casein replacements focus on “precision fermenting” them in a bioreactor, which is more complex and more expensive.

“This gives us the flexibility to produce these complex proteins in abundance and at exceptional cost parity,” adds Miller. 

Hod Yanover, NewMoo’s vice president of food development, elaborated on the company’s overarching approach to the market.

“Our goal is to assist dairy cheese manufacturers broaden their market scope to include the burgeoning flexitarian demographic,” he said. “We empower cheesemakers to create delectable and nutritious guilt-free products with ease and at no added costs.”

NewMoo hasn’t yet said when products containing its plant-based caseins will be available in supermarkets.

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Jason Harris

Jason Harris

Executive Director

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