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NZ-founded New Culture gets Kraft Heinz backing in US$25m raise

24th November 2021 By Staff Reporter | | @foodtickernz

New Zealand-founded New Culture has raised US$25m from investors, including the venture capital arm of FMCG giant Kraft Heinz, as it casts its eye to commercialising an animal-free mozzarella.

New Culture uses precision fermentation to produce the casein protein. Image: Supplied

The San Francisco-based startup has closed the Series A investment round led by Ahren Innovation Capital and CPT Capital, backed up by a raft of venture vehicles including existing investor Kraft Heinz’s Evolv, plus ADM, Be8, S2G and Future Ventures.

Under the leadership of Kiwi entrepreneur Matt Gibson, New Culture said it would use the capital to make key hires and scale-up production with the aim of a commercial launch of its vegan mozzarella in the US in 2022.

New Culture uses precision fermentation to produce the casein protein, a key cheesemaking ingredient traditionally found in milk that gives cheese its stretch and melt properties – qualities missing from early vegan cheese products especially mozzarella.

It aimed to win over conscious consumers and plant-based consumers first, then capture the mainstream dairy cheese consumer market and would target the foodservice channel for commercialisation. This would see it launch its mozzarella as an ingredient at select pizzerias in the US next year.

Another home-grown startup is also in the casein race. Auckland-based Daisy Lab is currently looking for US$250,000 in investment to back its alternative protein concept, which also uses precision fermentation to bypass the bovines.

Global giants such as ingredient company Perfect Day are also working in the animal-free dairy protein space, supplying an ingredient for General Mills’ plant-based brand Bold Cultr, while US-Australian startup Change Foods recently set up in Silicon Valley.

New Culture has been located stateside since 2019 after Auckland University genetics and microbiology graduate Gibson raised US$200,000 in seed money via US incubator IndieBowl and relocated to its Bay Area base.

“We’re thrilled to close our Series A with an incredible syndicate of existing and new investors,” New Culture co-founders Gibson and Inja Radman said.

“We can’t wait to dive into this next phase of scale-up and production to offer our delicious, melty, animal-free cheese to pizza lovers all across the country.”

The US cheese market was valued at US$34.3bn in 2019, led by sales of cheddar and mozzarella, according to Allied Market Research, and is forecast to reach US$45.5bn by 2027.

The US vegan cheese industry is small by comparison, according to Allied, valued at around US$1.2bn in 2019, with forecast growth to US$4bn by 2027.



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