Alt-protein maker Clara Foods announced this week a partnership with ZX Ventures, the innovation arm of beer brewer AB InBev, to “brew” animal-free protein at a large scale via fermentation, according to a press release sent to The Spoon.
Clara Foods, which was founded out of the IndieBio accelerator, has been using precision fermentation for years to develop animal-free protein, including an animal-free egg white. But a major challenge is producing such proteins at scale — that is, in large enough amounts to realistically compete with the traditional animal protein industry.
AB InBev, of course, is no stranger to fermentation at scale, it being the largest beer brewer in the world. The partnership with Clara Foods will combine AB InBev’s “centuries of expertise in scaled, food-grade fermentation and downstream processing gained from large-scale brewing processes” with Clara’s technology to develop more sustainable protein at scale.
Speaking in the press release, Patrick O’Riordan, founder and CEO at BioBrew, a technology platform venture in ZX Ventures, pointed out that meeting the future food demands of the planet will require cross-industry collaboration that marries the old with the new. In this case, fermentation, a centuries-old process, will get combined with novel technologies from Clara.
Scalability is key to the advancement of any alternative-protein right now. For Clara Foods and ZX Ventures’ BioBrew team, the goal is to produce alt protein — in this case egg whites — at a similar scale to beer brewing. Since brewing beer and fermenting protein aren’t quite the same thing, O’Riordan noted, in an interview with Food Navigator, that the technology for egg proteins will “probably be an adaptation of existing technology” currently used in beer-making.
CEO Arturo Elizondo told The Spoon earlier this year that the company hopes to go beyond egg white replacements. “We wanted to have a real kick ass platform that is not just a chicken egg plant protein platform, or an egg protein platform, but a true animal protein production platform, so that we can flex in and out of different products,” he said.
So far, the company has launched an animal-free pepsin. Other future products include an egg protein for beverages and the aforementioned egg white replacement.
Meanwhile, the Clara Foods partnership is AB InBev’s first-ever with a food company, though it’s not likely to be the last.