- New Culture’s animal-free mozzarella cheese will be debuting on the menu of Nancy Silverton’s renowned Pizzeria Mozza in Los Angeles next year.
- Before it becomes a regular menu item, New Culture and Pizzeria Mozza will be hosting a series of launch events. The first will be at the restaurant in early June, but there will be others throughout the year in Los Angeles, New York City and San Francisco.
- The cheese from New Culture will be the first product incorporating animal-free casein — the dairy protein that gives cheese its trademark stretch.
New Culture is launching an entirely new type of food tech product, and they’re following a successful playbook: Start at a well-known restaurant with a reputation for making high quality dishes, and spread to other restaurants, then eventually retail, once the item has cachet.
Because New Culture is making animal-free casein, founder and CEO Matt Gibson has always had his eye on getting into pizzerias first. When many people think of stretchy cheese, they think of a cheezy pizza. New Culture’s animal-free cheese is made by producing casein through precision fermentation — modifying small organisms including yeast so they produce casein when fermented. The rest of the ingredients in New Culture’s cheese are plant-based.
As a segment, plant-based cheese has seen a slight decline in sales. According to SPINS data, U.S. sales of plant-based cheese hit $230 million in 2022 — a 1.7% decrease in dollar sales and a 5% decrease in unit sales when compared to the year before. Household penetration for plant-based cheese was just 5% last year.
Studies have shown consumers are interested in the concept of plant-based cheese, but they haven’t been fans of the taste. A study by the Plant Based Foods Association and 84.51º showed that 73% of consumers were interested in better-tasting plant-based cheese that melts well and does not have a grainy texture.
New Culture’s option might be a way to provide that. Last year, a San Francisco Chronicle food writer proclaimed New Culture’s cheese “virtually indistinguishable from real dairy” on pizza.
Aside from having a pizzeria, Silverton is a valuable person to help launch New Culture’s cheese. One of the signature features at her Osteria Mozza restaurants is the mozzarella bar, serving fine and fresh versions of the white, stretchy cheese.
“I've always been of the school of thinking that just because it's a substitute doesn't mean it needs to be anything less than spectacular,” Silverton said in a written statement. “When I tried New Culture cheese, I was surprised and excited by the integrity of the product and really felt it lived up to our standards.”
The pies at Pizzeria Mozza are ranked among the best in Los Angeles, and Silverton is a James Beard Award-winning chef. Food critics say the unique crust and fresh ingredients set Pizzeria Mozza apart. Silverton and New Culture have worked together to refine and prepare the New Culture product for launch, and the pizzeria will create pies that showcase the cheese.
A similiar plan worked for Impossible Foods as it first launched its signature burger at David Chang’s Momofuku Nishi in 2016. The burger was trendy and gained notoriety — and the company had time to refine its formula and scale up manufacturing — before it became available to consumers at grocery stores.