ADM, one of the world’s largest food processing companies, has inked a deal with New Culture, a startup developing animal-free cheese utilizing precision fermentation, to offer joint product development and scale-up commercialization services.
The deal will help New Culture scale up production of its animal-free casein (casein is the protein that gives cheese its stretchy and melty goodness) as it eyes the commercial launch of its animal-free mozzarella in 2023.
From the release:
The partnership will also include collaborations to advance the commercial scale-up of New Culture’s animal-free casein and dairy products. ADM’s global manufacturing assets and expertise will accelerate New Culture’s efforts toward commercializing their animal-free mozzarella in the U.S. food service market, beginning with pizzerias in 2023. As New Culture grows its commercial footprint, ADM’s production capacity for both fermentation and dairy operations will be made available to meet the demand for New Culture’s melty, stretchy cheese.
The partnership marks the latest in a flurry of new initiatives by the food processing giant to position itself as a scale-up partner for alternative protein startups. Earlier this month, the company announced a joint venture with Asia Sustainable Foods Platform (a subsidiary of Singapore conglomerate Temasek) called ScaleUp Bio. The new company will work A*STAR’s Singapore Institute of Food and Biotechnology Innovation (SIFBI) to provide a lab for precision fermentation and scale-up services. ScaleUp Bio will provide access to 100L fermentation tanks for testing and optimization of future food products and high-scale production capabilities through access to a new facility with a 10,000L fermentation capacity.
The New Culture and ScaleUp Bio deals follow an announcement of ADM’s $300 million investment to build an alternative production center in Decatur. That move followed the acquisition of Sojaprotein in 2021. The company has said these two deals will increase its alt-protein production capacity by 30%.
ADM’s push into alt-protein scale-up services is part of a larger trend by big food to build-out infrastructure for the growing alt-protein industry. Beer giant AB InBev’s BioBrew, a division of the company’s ZX Ventures that provides scale-up for alt-protein startups, is working with Every Company (formerly Clara Foods) to help scale up its precision fermentation-derived egg products. Bitburger, a German-based brewery, is providing precision fermentation production capacity and sidestream byproducts as inputs for development of Mushlab’s mycelium-derived proteins for alternative meats.
Increased investment by big companies like ADM, AB InBev, and Bitburger is just the beginning of what will likely be a multi-billion-dollar alt-protein infrastructure build-out by big food over the coming decade. The Good Food Institute has said $27 billion is needed to meet demand by 2030 for plant-based meat alone. The tally will certainly be much higher when factoring in other alt-protein variants manufactured using cell-cultured and precision fermentation techniques. These investments come as a new wave of biomanufacturing startups building next-generation production facilities continue to pop up and receive funding.