When asked if it’s possible to fully replace animal-based dairy, Zoltan Toth-Czifra, the founder and CEO of Real Deal Milk, doesn’t hesitate. “I think the question is not if, but when?” he told me.
I had caught up with Toth-Czifra this week to learn more about his Barcelona-based company, which uses precision fermentation to create bioidentical milk proteins. The company, which Toth-Czifra founded in February 2021, is currently in its research and development phase and was recently accepted into the Pascual incubator program, an incubator program focused on innovation in the dairy industry is run by a large dairy producer.
“It signals that traditional dairy is also looking where we are looking,” says Toth-Czifra. “They see where things are headed and maybe see the future in cellular agriculture, and they want to be part of it. They want to invest in it.”
Real Deal Milk uses precision fermentation technology to “teach” yeast strains to produce bioidentical milk proteins. Dairy milk consists of proteins, sugars, fats, and water, and according to Toth-Czifra, the proteins are the most difficult to replicate. Therefore, the company is focused on replicating whey and casein proteins that can be used in various dairy alternative applications such as milk, cheese, butter, ice cream, and more.
Precision fermentation start-up Perfect Day unveiled the first animal-free whey protein powder last week. Change Foods is another company that also uses precision fermentation to create dairy proteins to be used in cheese. According to Toth-Czifra, there does not seem to be another precision fermentation company focused on dairy proteins in Spain. There are a few others dispersed throughout Europe, like Formo in Germany.
Dairy farming releases large amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, such as methane, nitrous oxide, and carbon dioxide. With the imminent threat of our planet warming due to the greenhouse gas effect, dairy products are often demonized for their high emissions. In regards to climate change, Toth-Czifra said, “I feel climate change is one of the most recognized brands, but with no product.” However, many products are a response to climate change, such as alternative dairy products.
Real Deal Milk’s first product will likely be cheese. The company’s long-term vision is to replace dairy across all categories, including cream, milk, milk powder, and ice cream.