- Animal-free dairy cheese company Change Foods extended its Seed Round with an additional $12 million, bringing the round's total investment to $15.3 million, the most for any precision fermentation company at this point. The round was led by Route 66 Ventures. Additional investors include Upfield, Sigma, Orkla, Green Generation Fund, Blue Horizon Ventures, Google's Jeff Dean, Plug and Play Ventures, Clear Current Capital, Better Bite Ventures and British soccer player Chris Smalling.
- Change Foods announced two strategic collaboration agreements: one with plant-based butter giant and Violife owner Upfield, and one with international yogurt and cheese maker Sigma. The company said these partnerships will both accelerate product development and open doors to rapidly scale animal-free cheese production and distribution capacity.
- Change Foods is one of several companies focused on transforming the dairy aisle by using precision fermentation to create ingredients that are usually derived from animals. It is focused on cheese, and plans to launch products in late 2023.
The last six months have been full of advances for Change Foods. In September, the startup officially moved its headquarters from Australia to the San Francisco Bay Area, home to many leading food tech companies. And with these funds and partnerships, the company is getting a boost to get products on shelves quickly — either its own branded offerings or products made in conjunction with leading names in cheese, yogurt and margarine.
Change Foods is dedicated to creating casein proteins, which are present in milk and give cheese its trademark stretch, through precision fermentation. This means that the end product is identical to that which comes from a cow, but it is created without any animals.
“Our mission is to transform the global cheese business with new products that deliver the indulgent taste and eating experience of traditional animal-derived products, but without the detrimental impacts of industrialized animal agriculture,” Change Foods Founder and CEO David Bucca said in a statement announcing the funding and partnerships.
Money and big partnerships can help make that a reality. And in the alternative-to-traditional-dairy space, Upfield and Sigma are both ideal to help Change Foods at this juncture.
Upfield, which was created in 2018 after Unilever sold off its margarine business, owns many of the global leading brands in the category, including Country Crock and I Can't Believe It's Not Butter. Upfield added plant-based cheese to its portfolio in 2020, when it purchased Violife's parent company Arivia. The margarine maker has been moving to further diversify in the alternatives space recently. Last week, the company announced it had purchased a minority stake in Alternative Foods, the parent company of U.K.-based egg alternative company Oggs.
While Change Foods doesn't make an alternative to a dairy favorite, it is working on making a dairy favorite in an alternative way. This distinction will set it apart from other cheese companies, at least as its products first get on shelves. Upfield can navigate the alternative category and help make Change's cheese stand out.
Sigma knows the cheese market, with cheese and yogurt brands in 18 countries. This is a partnership that can give Change Foods deep category knowledge, as well as extremely wide distribution. And Sigma has also been active in the food tech space. Last year, the company made a minority investment in The Live Green Company, which uses an algorithm to reformulate processed favorite foods with plant-based clean-label ingredients. The investment helped Live Green expand its products to several international markets. In a statement, Sigma Chief Technology Officer Gregorio De Haene said the company is excited to work with Change Foods to make sustainable animal-free dairy products.
A study last year indicated 65% of U.S. consumers would be willing to try animal-free dairy cheese. As consumers get more familiar with the space through several other products made with Perfect Day's fermented dairy proteins, that number may increase. These funds and partnerships will help bring the chance to try that cheese closer to reality.