Retailers will be stocking dairy products that aren’t milked from animals by 2023, Aussie startup Eden Brew has revealed.
Unlike alternatives like oat, almond and soy, the new products will be largely identical to milk but grown using fermentation instead of squeezed from a cow.
That means Eden Brew’s dairy will have the same health benefits as regular milk, and can even be synthesised to meet specific nutritional requirements such as increased calcium for the elderly.
Because its milk proteins are “nature identical” they will still contain some of the allergens in regular milk, but it will be free of lactose, the ingredient responsible for most intolerances.
Eden Brew founder Jim Fader told Yahoo News Australia the company will not initially be aiming to replace conventional milk, and instead targeting the 15 per cent of Australians who avoid dairy.
“We see this as less about taking sales away from dairy and more about helping dairy meet future demand,” he said.
“I could see precision fermented foods have… 20 per cent of the category in the next 10 plus years.”
What does it taste like?
According to Mr Fader, Eden Brew tastes "exactly the same as regular milk".
How much will Eden Brew’s milk cost?
At between $4.50 and $5.00 a litre, Eden Brew’s milk will be launched at a price similar to high-end plant-based milk.
The company hopes to increase its scale of fermentation and improve brewing efficiency by 2027, driving the retail price to under $3.00 by 2028.
How is animal-free milk grown?
While lab-grown meats usually require cells from an animal, Eden Brew has created its bovine DNA synthetically.
Yeast is then “trained” to “express milk proteins” through a fermentation process similar to the brewing of alcohol.
The company built on research by CSIRO into casein micelle proteins and has since received funding from the agency.
What about cheese?
Getting solids and fats for cheese requires milk to be dewatered. Eden Brew will be able to skip this step and instead turn its raw proteins into cheese, yogurt and ice cream.
Will it be available at Coles and Woolworths?
Eden Brew plans to submit its ice cream for government accreditation by Food Standards Australia New Zealand this year and have it on shelves the following summer.
This would pave the way for the company to reach its goal of having milk available by August 2024.
While Coles did not respond to Yahoo News Australia's request to comment and Woolworths said it was too early to provide a statement, Mr Fader said he hopes supermarkets will eventually stock his products.
“Supermarkets are well aware of products like ours, the broad protein category. They’re stocking a lot of plant-based meats now,” he said.
“They're very in tune with what the food trends are in this space.”
Using the established distribution networks of dairy cooperative Norco, products will initially be rolled out around northern NSW and southern Queensland.
“We would target cafes, restaurants, health food shops, and possibly the supermarkets within a contained geography initially,” Mr Fader said.
“That's in part because the amount of protein that we would be making wouldn't sustain a national launch.”
Is Eden Brew better for the planet and animals?
With the world demanding environmentally unsustainable amounts of protein, these products could reduce the need to grow cattle herds and help reduce methane emissions and land use.
Mr Fader said his company is one of many working to give consumers “more sustainable versions” of the foods they “know and love”.
“We're a fraction of the environmental footprint (of regular milk) and there is no animal involved in the process,” he said.
“We actually create bovine DNA synthetically, so you don’t even need the animal”.
Reducing the need for cattle will also have animal welfare implications. To ensure continued supply of milk, cows are usually required to give birth annually and then separated from their calves.
On most broad-acre farms, males and surplus females, known as bobby calves, serve no financial purpose and are either euthanised and buried or auctioned for their meat.
Woolworths sees significant increase in uptake of alternate proteins
While lab-grown products are yet to hit the supermarket shelves in Australia, Woolworths has seen demand for plant-based proteins grow by over 50 per cent in recent years.
A survey of the supermarket's customers in March 2021 found 62 per cent purchase meat or dairy-free products at least some of the time.
The company found 88 per cent of purchases were not made by vegans or vegetarians, but rather by customers who also bought meat.
"With the rise of ‘flexitarian’ customers looking to add variety to their diets, many customers are buying both meat and a broader range of plant-based alternatives," a Woolworths spokesperson said.
"Our range of plant-based products is constantly growing across core shopping categories, including milk alternatives, meat alternatives, cheese, yoghurt, tofu, falafels, snacking and dips."
Despite the increase in sales, red meat sales outsize those of plant-based protein sales by a factor of sixty to one.
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