Precision Fermentation Steals the Show at IFT FIRST

CHICAGO – Alternatives to animal proteins and dairy products were plentiful among the ingredient and food companies exhibiting at the IFT FIRST annual meeting and expo recently.

In addition to plant-based ingredients such as oat milk and pea protein isolate, animal-free proteins made through precision fermentation and cell-cultures could be found all over the show floor. Here’s a look at the companies that put innovation on display in Chicago:

Egg protein through fermentation

The EVERY Co., maker of what it calls “The World’s First Animal-Free Egg– Fermed, Not Farmed,” showcased its EVERY Protein Nectar alongside its EVERY EggWhite at the show.

The company uses precision fermentation to create nature-equivalent animal proteins that taste and function like the original proteins. Its EVERY EggWhite is Vegan Society Certified, cholesterol-free, kosher, and halal. The company has raised $240 million to date from investors including actress Anne Hathaway.

Its EVERY Protein Nectar is a ready-to-eat protein that can go straight into coffee, tea, alcoholic drinks or on oatmeal with its “ultra neutral and ultra dense protein.”

Animal-free milk protein

Perfect Day makes milk protein through precision fermentation. The company served lattes made with Perfect Day’s Barista Blend Whole Milk and highlighted the clean flavor and clarity of its ProFerm Clearly Delicious, Perfect Day’s Clear Neutral pH whey protein isolate in a Coconut & Cucumber Protein Water.

Perfect Day’s latest partnership, announced July 11, is Unico Nutrition’s launch of APOLLO II, the first-ever hybrid protein powder that combines grass-fed milk protein, Perfect Day’s whey protein from fermentation, and egg white.

Perfect Day’s precision fermentation process involves placing microflora in a brewing tank and giving them the precise DNA sequence that acts as a blueprint for how to make cow whey protein. Inside the tank filled with broth made of water, nutrients, and sugar, the microflora ferment the broth and digest plant sugar to produce milk whey proteins that are nutritionally identical to whey proteins from cows. The protein is separated from the microflora, filtered, purified, and dried.

Lactoferrin protein

Helaina, a biotech company working to produce human bioactive proteins, won the grand prize in the IFT FIRST Pitch Competition.

Paola Delgado, chief operating officer for Helaina, spoke about how Helaina is “the first company making human lactoferrin, a multifunctional compound that regulates iron levels, improves nutrient absorption, and supports cognitive health.” Human lactoferrin is found in breast milk. Bovine lactoferrin is the only comparable ingredient in the market according to Delgado but trades for up $1,500 per kg and takes 2,000 liters of milk to make 1 kg of lactoferrin.

The bovine lactoferrin “market has doubled in size in the past five years. We’re here to take over and to expand this market with a more efficacious and cost-effective ingredient. Our proprietary precision fermentation platform is able to make human bioactive ingredients at a fraction of the cost. This is the future of food as medicine,” Delgado said.

Cell-cultured seafood

BlueNalu makes cell-based fillets by isolating real fish muscle cells, fat cells and connecting tissue, feeding a mixture of nutrients, and growing them in stainless steel equipment. The company has raised $85 million in financing to date and built a pilot factory.

During IFT FIRST’s Pitch Competition, BlueNalu CEO Lou Cooperhouse stated that the company’s premium cell-cultured seafood is made directly from cells of fish but with no mercury or microplastics. He emphasized that “Our product is real seafood and has the same taste, texture and nutritional profile that people crave.”

The first product BlueNalu is developing is the toro portion of premium bluefin tuna that’s highly sought after globally. The company needs regulatory approval from the USDA to sell its products in the U.S.

Virginia Lee is a food & beverages trendspotter and market research analyst. She has advised companies on innovation and market entry opportunities in consumer packaged goods at Euromonitor International, Innova Market Insights, and Brightfield Group. Connect with Virginia on Twitter and Instagram at @VirginiaALee.