As the name suggests, Change Foods is set to take on the world of cheese and go beyond today’s plant-based offerings and create a cheddar or mozzarella that tastes just like a dairy product. According to company founder and CEO David Bucca, the trick is the replication of casein, a dairy protein, which gives the cheese its signature flavor.
Using precision fermentation, Change Foods currently has a war chest of over $15 million from venture capitalists and food manufacturing companies and collaborations with giants such as Upfield and Sigma. – Foods in Mexico. Bucca believes Change Foods will have products on the market in 2023.
Recently, David Bucca spoke to The Spoon about the origins of Change Foods, his vision and how he hopes to attract today’s dairy-based cheese consumers to his company’s product line.
Why attack a market where so many companies are already attacking plant-based cheese?
When you look at the limitations of current products on the shelves, unfortunately, this is not enough for many other cheese consumers, certainly from a functionality point of view, let alone from a taste point of view. So when you’re talking about specifically harder cheeses like cheddars or even a very functional cheese like mozzarella, you’d expect it to stretch and melt and do all of its usual things on pizza, for example. Then there are clear limitations that you encounter with plant-based cheeses.
I think some products have come a long way, and soft cheeses and fermented cheeses are all fantastic in their own application. But you know, they just don’t consider them cheese for the regular cheese and dairy consumer.
How and why did you move from the aerospace industry into the world of alternative foods?
I was working in the aerospace industry when I started a non-profit organization called Series Frontier in Australia, which is a think tank and industrial accelerator for proteins. And it allowed me to look at many companies, look at many different technologies, and study and assess market gaps and opportunities. And basically the conclusion I came to was that microbial fermentation is such a powerful catalyst, especially when you can focus on specific compounds. One of them was the magic unlock you find in a dairy engine, especially casein.
So once I make that connection, we can recreate the key functional component of cheese and dairy, which is casein, using technology that allows you to produce something bioidentical. And suddenly, it was a magical epiphany to say that wow, if we can recreate casein exactly one for one, then there’s this whole concept of cheese without compromise.
So your goal is to provide a dairy alternative that appeals to more than plant-based or vegan consumers.
It’s a change without compromise for the average consumer.
We are seeing strong growth in the vegan and plant-based cheese market, which is fantastic. But for the average consumer of mass cheese, we need something better. We need something that minimizes this trade-off that people have to accept. And I think it is, and I can do it.
You focus on casein, so is it the same as the casein found in dairy products?
The DNA is actually encoded in the gene. So the gene itself is what we use one for, one from essentially the same gene that you say codes for the cow to produce casein. So we take that same DNA, but then we use a microbial host to produce that same protein rather than a cow affected by it. So we create miniature cows in a way that we can target specific compounds of interest, one of which is casein, one being bioidentical.
Other companies using precision fermentation face scale and cost challenges. What is your approach to these issues?
Well, where we are today, we are poised to ride the high-cost legacy type of process forward into this new era of cost effectiveness and scalability. And that’s why it’s a challenge. And the biggest challenge is how do you obviously optimize that protein or that company that you’re looking for within the lab to get the microbes to produce things in as large a quantity as possible. But the second challenge is to take advantage of the scales of what the economy of scale is in bigger and bigger fermenters, because that’s really where you start.
The other key thing that’s driving a lot of this is also the regulatory timeline to produce products at scale and through a repeatable process, to then go through the regulatory approval process with the FDA and get aggressive approval for these specific compounds for use in foods. .
If you hope to have products on the market in 2023, what do you have in place today? Something I can hold in my hand?
Yes absolutely. We have a number of benchtop prototypes.
Finally, please talk about the impact you think Change Foods will have on climate change and sustainability through its cheese.
If we’re serious about solving some of the climate and animal agriculture issues related to dairy, that’s why cheese is so important. For example, it takes ten liters of cow’s milk to make one kilo of cheddar. So that’s a 10 to 1 conversion ratio. So not only is dairy milk unsustainable, to begin with, but then you can multiply that by a factor of ten for cheese.
With this in mind, we must be strategic to ensure that there is no compromise in taste, performance cost, texture, price and convenience for the average dairy consumer.