Friday, April 12, 2024

Plant-based milk tech finds market favour

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More than $2.5m in ‘seed’ funding for new extraction technology.
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A startup springing from research at Massey University and the Riddet Institute has raised $2.7 million in “seed” funding, led by Icehouse Ventures, for its novel technology extracting plant-based milk from seeds. 

Palmerston North-based ANDFOODS uses the seeds or pulses of a legume to create a range of allergen-free dairy alternatives, without compromising the environment. 

The investment round will allow the startup to take its product to market and accelerate its R&D efforts, said ANDFOODS chief executive Alex Devereux.

“With the amount of R&D that’s been invested, ANDFOODS is in an incredible position as we go into the market with a product that has years of science behind it. As well as being one of the few allergen-free dairy alternatives, our process uses fermentation to help give ANDFOODS greater control of flavour profile and other important properties,” Devereux said.

Since launching as a company less than a year ago, the company has seen a flurry of momentum, adding Leon Clement (former Synlait CEO, ex-Fonterra MD) as its chair, and starting product development work with some of the largest food companies in the world. 

The instant commercial momentum made the investment decision a simple one, said Icehouse Ventures partner Barnaby Marshall.

“No one is doubting the demand for dairy-free products. Consumers want them, the environment needs them, but at the end of the day they have to stand up to the taste test. When I first heard about ANDFOODS, I put it into the bucket of ‘another plant-based milk’, and was duly sceptical — then I tasted it. ANDFOODS has developed something that is poised to become a fundamental ingredient for all kinds of food producers, at a high enough quality that it’s immune to changing trends,” Marshall said. 

During Massey’s investigation into new candidates for plant-based milks, Dr Arup Nag recalled the latent potential of a legume seed from his homeland India.

Though many dairy alternatives do a reasonable job of capturing the taste and texture of dairy milk, few to date have come close to emulating the measurable quality of high-grade cow-based creams or milk powders.

However, ANDFOODS’ signature cream product has already eclipsed all other plant-based creams in its lab and kitchen testing, with a consistent 140% overrun (its ability to take on air and maintain shape) and creamy taste profile. These overrun results are more comparable to the standard bearing ultra high temperature (UHT) creams preferred by commercial kitchens and food manufacturers.

Originally used as an “orphan crop” to regenerate soil between rice harvests, the legume at the heart of ANDFOODS’ research was a brain wave from the company’s CTO and co-founder, Dr Arup Nag.

Nag was born and raised in India, before beginning work as a researcher at Massey University and the Riddet Institute in 2010. During Massey’s investigation into new candidates for plant-based milks, Nag recalled the latent potential of a legume seed from his homeland India, which guided the ensuing multi-year R&D efforts. 

“This has been a union of the special ingredients native to my home in India, combined with the resources and expertise from the team at the Riddet Institute. With ANDFOODS we now have the means to commercialise this scientific discovery, and provide the best plant-based cream and ingredients to the world,” Nag said.

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