Dairy Dialog podcast 140: Cacique, Field Agent Canada, Imagindairy

By Jim Cornall

- Last updated on GMT

Dairy Dialog podcast 140: Cacique, Field Agent Canada, Imagindairy
Dairy Dialog podcast 140: Cacique, Field Agent Canada, Imagindairy

Related tags Dairy alternatives Casein Whey protein Milk Canada USMCA

This week our guests on the podcast are Jeff Doucette, general manager of Field Agent Canada; Gil de Cardenas, CEO of Cacique; and Dr Arie Abo, PhD, co-founder of Imagindairy.

We also have our weekly look at the global dairy markets with Liam Fenton at StoneX.

Cacique breaks ground on new Texas dairy processing facility

Cacique, LLC – a privately-owned Hispanic foods company and maker of Mexican-style cheeses, cremas and chorizos in the US – has officially broken ground on an $88m dairy processing facility in Amarillo, Texas.

The company said its new 200,000 square-foot facility will help meet growing demand nationwide. It is planning to begin operation at the new facility in the fall of 2022 and expects to create approximately 200 new full-time jobs.

The new facility will be equipped to handle dairy processing, including production of the company's Mexican-style cheeses, cremas and yogurts.

"After an extensive, national search, we are very happy to select Amarillo, Texas, as the location of our new state-of-the-art manufacturing facility,"​ said Gil de Cardenas, CEO of Cacique, LLC.

"From our first visit, we knew that Amarillo was special. It's a vibrant, thriving and diverse melting pot of cultures and we're thrilled to become part of this local community as we put down some new Cacique family roots in the great state of Texas."

The project benefits from receiving a Texas Enterprise Fund (TEF) grant from the office of Texas Governor Greg Abbott.

Governor Abbott said, "Amarillo is a natural home for Cacique, as the Texas Panhandle is a magnet for the manufacturing and food processing industries. Thank you to Cacique for choosing to invest in the Lone Star State. I look forward to working with them as we usher in a more prosperous future for all Texans."

In addition to the TEF grant, the Amarillo Economic Development Corporation (AEDC) and the City Council of Amarillo recently approved an incentive package for the expansion project.

"We are honored that Cacique chose to make Amarillo their new home,"​ said Kevin Carter, president and CEO of the Amarillo Economic Development Corporation.

"The addition of Cacique to the Amarillo community is another example of significant economic progress for the city and the Amarillo area,"​ said Amarillo Mayor Ginger Nelson.

"Amarillo continues to grow with an economy that is one of the strongest in the state, if not the country. With an impressive company such as Cacique now calling Amarillo home, Amarillo's commitment to a strong and diverse economy continues."

In addition to expanding production capacity with the introduction of the new plant, Cacique intends to increase R&D to drive product innovation and to continue to sustainably enhance its national presence as part of the company's long-term growth strategy.

Cacique operates complementary facilities including a dairy processing plant in City of Industry, California, a meat processing plant in Cedar City, Utah and a salsa processing plant in Gilbert, Arizona.

The Amarillo dairy processing facility comes on the heels of an investment by Boston-based investment manager The Baupost Group, LLC, part of a round of funding earlier this year to accelerate the brand's growth.

Report shows how much Canadians are paying for milk

The June 2021 edition of the Canadian Fluid Milk report has been published by Field Agent Canada.

It compares the prices Canadians pay for one of the most common items in the grocery basket - 2% milk.

Field Agent Canada conducted a cross-country price survey on fluid milk prices at 185 retailers in 20 markets from coast-to-coast between May 7 and June 1, 2021. The survey compared prices recorded at the same outlets in March 2020, highlighting any shifts over the last 14 months. Additionally, the company looked at prices for milk at Walmart stores in five border communities in the US to provide a comparative benchmark of the cost of similar products in the larger US market.

There have been reports of increasing food prices across Canada and the company said this is true of milk as the average price of 4L milk increasing by 3.6% since the last survey in March 2020.

“We are seeing the price of milk increasing in 18 out of 20 markets surveyed with the only exceptions being Charlottetown, PE and Victoria/Langford, BC. Milk is one of those items making the total at the bottom of the grocery receipt go higher,”​ said Jeff Doucette, general manager of Field Agent Canada.

Milk is also at the centre of the Biden administration’s first USMCA challenge where it is alleged the Canadian system of quotas is preventing US milk producers from importing its products to Canada.

“It is an age-old gripe of Canadians that the price of gasoline and the price of milk is so much cheaper in the US than in Canada,”​ Doucette said.

“We found 3.78L milk in Amherst, NY for $2.59 (C$3.32) which is 25% less than the price of the cheapest Canadian 4L jug. There is no doubt open borders would reduce the milk price for Canadian consumers but the government is unlikely to allow that milk to flow due to the powerful dairy farmers lobby.”

The cheapest milk in Canada, for the 4L size, is in Sudbury, Ontario, where shoppers are paying an average of C$4.68 per 4L jug. The most expensive milk continues to be in St. John’s, Newfoundland, where 4L jugs are not available and shoppers are paying a C$3.90 on average for a 2L carton.

“Since we first launched this report in 2015 we have been highlighting the inefficiencies and inequalities of the milk market in Canada which has wide swings from city-to-city while the price of a 2L Coca-Cola is essentially the same in every Walmart across Canada. We will continue to publish this report so consumers have the facts to raise to their local politicians to fight for change,”​ Doucette said.

Imagindairy develops dairy-free whey and casein proteins

Israeli start-up Imagindairy, Ltd., is creating milk proteins that are indistinguishable from the real thing via a natural process of precision fermentation.

Imagindairy’s proprietary technology recreates nature-identical, animal-free versions of whey and casein proteins that can be used to produce dairy analogs.

They have the flavor and texture – and, importantly, the functionality and nutritional value – of their animal-based counterparts. This opens new opportunities to develop a full range of non-dairy products that mimic dairy versions, yet contain no cholesterol, or GMOs. They also are lactose-free, serving consumers with lactose intolerance or sensitivity. At the same time, the company said its proprietary technology lowers the burden of dairy livestock on the environment.

“Our microflora-based production method was inspired by nature to recreate these proteins,”​ said Eyal Afergan, PhD, co-founder and CEO of Imagindairy.

The unique protein structure of dairy milk is what provides its characteristic texture, flavor, and nutritional value. Whey is a key source of highly biologically-available protein. Imagindairy’s animal-free dairy products boast the same complement of nutrients, from protein content to mineral composition, including calcium.

 “Our vision was to deliver an animal-free version of the primary dairy proteins — whey and casein — that can allow product makers to match real dairy products in terms of protein concentration, nutrient profile, and the full sensory experiences of the animal-derived versions,”​ Afergan said.

“I look forward to being able to give my kids such treats as a cup of nutritious, tasty milk or creamy yogurt without the hard impact on animals or on the environment they must inherit.”

Imagindairy was co-founded by a multidisciplinary team from microbiology, computational systems, and biotechnology with the support of Israel-based The Kitchen FoodTech hub. The team, headed by Dr Arie Abo, PhD, a specialist in protein biochemistry, in collaboration with Tamir Tuller, PhD, a professor at Tel Aviv University, set out to advance emerging technology to overcome production bottlenecks and create a commercially viable, guilt-free milk product, without forfeiting quality or functionality.

Imagindairy kicked off operations at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, building its first applications lab in the home kitchen of one its employees, a single parent who needed a solution that would allow her to work on development while tending her homeschooled children.

Imagindairy’s technology is based on 15 years of research by Tuller, channeling evolutionary genomics for the advancement of high-yield protein production.

“We developed an advanced protein production platform that allows us to optimize every step in creating milk proteins,”​ said Tuller, Imagindairy’s co-founder and CSO.

“This allowed us to achieve the yield that is needed to achieve commercial production.”

Imagindairy’s technology can be readily integrated into existing dairy food-production facilities. The start-up has raised $1.5m in seed funding, led by The Kitchen FoodTech hub, with contributions from the Israeli Innovative Authority, CPT Capital, New Crop Capital, and Entrée Capital, and will soon enter its A-round funding series.

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