Biotech Company’s Plant-Based Casein Could Make Vegan Cheese ‘Indistinguishable’ From Dairy Cheese in Melt and Texture
Vegan cheese is about to get a breakthrough. Climax Foods, a biotechnology company based in California, discovered a plant-based version of casein with the help of artificial intelligence. The findings could contribute to vegan cheeses with better melting properties.
The company uncovered a plant-based protein that performs similarly to casein. Casein is a dairy-based protein that makes up about 80% of the protein in dairy products, according to Verywell Health. Casein helps provide cheese with its signature melting and stretching, properties that many vegan cheese products have lacked.
Climax Foods used its process, called “precision formulation,” of combining data science and artificial intelligence to discover the casein alternative. The plant-based casein substitute will allow vegan cheeses to melt, stretch, and even brown like animal-based cheeses. Further, the company said it is free of the top eight allergens (which include milk, eggs, fish, Crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soybeans, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration) as well as hormones and antibiotics.
Like other plant-based cheeses, the cheeses made using this casein alternative will reduce carbon emissions, land use and water consumption compared to products made from dairy. But according to Climax Foods, its products will have improved nutritional qualities and better texture compared to other plant-based dairy alternatives.
“Our goal is not just to give vegans better options — we are offering a better way to everyone, especially hardcore cheeselovers,” Oliver Zahn, Climax CEO and founder, said in a press release.
“For our casein replacement, our AI platform and precision formulation process helped us uncover a mechanism in specific plant proteins that imparts indistinguishable melt and stretch and mouthfeel from casein while also dramatically improving nutrition,” Zahn added.
According to Zahn, this development can also apply to other animal-based products outside of dairy in the future.
The Bel Group has already partnered with Climax Foods to develop improved plant-based versions of its popular products, including Laughing Cow, Boursin and Babybel cheeses, using the casein alternative. As VegNews reported, Climax Foods is also working on a mozzarella product that will stretch with the help of the plant-based casein.
“AI and data can be game changers in food in terms of delivering optimal taste and texture while at the same time making it affordable and sustainable,” Zahn said in a statement. “Evolving recipes over time is what we’ve been doing for hundreds of years. In addition to changing consumer preferences, climate change requires us to accelerate the evolution of food.”