New Culture lands $25 million in seed funding to commercialize its cheesy vegan mozzarella

Led by sales of cheddar and mozzarella cheese, the cheese market in the United States alone was valued at $34.3 billion in 2019 and is expected to reach $45.5 billion by 2027, at a compound annual growth rate of 5.25%, according to Allied Research.

By comparison, the vegan cheese industry is small, with a volume of about $1.2 billion in 2019 and projected to reach $4.4 billion by 2027, according to Allied findings.

This massive gap hasn’t stopped a syndicate of investors from pouring $25 million in seed funding into New Culture, a company that sells “cow cheese, no cow.” Conversely, its investors believe the three-year-old startup based in the Bay Area can purposefully grow the market with animal-free mozzarella that, according to investor Steve Jurvetson, tastes, smells and stretches like milk cheese, on the The opposite of most vegetative plants. Cheese, which he described as “yet disgusting.”

The missing ingredient, Jurvetson says, is the casein protein in milk, which so far can only be obtained from milk. Meanwhile, New Culture says it produces large amounts of casein protein through a careful fermentation process. As a previous report in VegNews best describes it, New Culture, using giant fermentation tanks, inserts DNA sequences into microbes that effectively instruct them to express target proteins (alpha-casein, beta-casein) after feeding on a sugar solution.

The company then combines casein — which it mixes with water, vegetable fats, vitamins, and minerals — to make mozzarella cheese.

The end product is healthier, Jurvetson says, noting that it’s free of cholesterol and lactose. It is also much better for the environment. In fact, it takes an estimated 56 gallons of water to produce just one ounce of dairy-based cheese. (The new culture would also require much less land use, obviously.)

Note that you won’t find New Culture mozzarella at your local grocery store — not yet anyway. The plan is to distribute the cheese first across pizzerias across the country starting next year.

Ultimately, says New Cultures co-founder and CEO Matt Gibson — a New Zealander who studied genetics and microbiology and who previously built and sold an education review site — the company can make yogurt, ice cream, and even milk, despite its severity. The focus for the foreseeable future is largely on mozzarella.

The New Culture tour was led by Ahren Innovation Capital and CPT Capital. Other new investors include ADM Ventures, Be8 Ventures, S2G Ventures, Marinya Capital and Future Ventures, which is operated by Jurvetson and partner Maryanna Saenko.

Previous backers have also participated in the financing, including SOSV, Bee Partners, Mayfield, Bluestein Ventures and Evolv Ventures, an arm of Kraft Heinz.

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