- San Francisco-based startup New Culture has closed a $3.5 million seed funding round led by Evolv Ventures, the venture capital fund launched by Kraft Heinz. Other participants included Bee Partners, Mayfield, CPT Capital, Boost VC and SOSV.
- New Culture, founded late last year, uses fermentation to make dairy proteins for animal-free dairy cheese. The company adds plant-based fats, sugars and conventional cheese-making techniques to produce its products, according to a company press release.
- Co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer Inja Radman said the company is focusing on a viable and sustainable alternative cheese product. The company plans to set up an R&D and fermentation facility in San Francisco.
The latest investment by Kraft Heinz' venture capital arm Evolv Ventures shows the CPG giant continuing its attempt to rejuvenate its struggling company. Sales and stock prices are dropping, but helping fund New Culture's on-trend products could help it tap into a new consumer base. There could also be potential for Kraft Heinz to offer updated options of its products using the animal-free dairy cheese, including its signature macaroni and cheese.
Featuring dairy cheese made without actually using cows could appeal to those looking for more sustainable products and concerned about animal welfare, water and land use issues related to conventional dairy operations. Cheese and butter are two of the most polluting foods because of the emissions produced to make them, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. It would also be another option in the country's massive conventional cheese market, which NPR reported has a record surplus despite rising per-capita consumption.
The move to create animal-free products continues to gather steam. Other food tech innovators include Perfect Day, which developed animal-free dairy ice cream made from milk produced through microbial fermentation, and Motif FoodWorks, which recently raised $27.5 million to recreate proteins from dairy, egg and meat to use in plant-based alternatives. One of Motif's potential products, among many, would replicate milk proteins to mimic breast milk.
While New Culture is just in its early stages, it has shown some small but tangible process. CSO Inja Radman recently told The New York Times it has done some double-blind tests to evaluate whether consumers could taste any difference between its animal-free mozzarella product and a conventional store-bought one — and she noted "really positive results."