Nestlé is set to pilot a ready-to-drink beverage that contains cultivated whey in a bid to better understand the potential of precision fermentation and evaluate consumer appetite for sustainably-sourced dairy protein alternatives.
The multi-national has partnered with food technology specialist Perfect Day, which uses precision fermentation technology to develop protein powder much like animal-derived whey, the company told DairyReporter. The concept was then fleshed-out by scientists at Nestlé Research and R&D Konolfingen in Switzerland before it was transferred to Nestlé’s R+D Accelerator in the US to bring the idea to test launch – a feat the organization achieved in under six months.
The product, which we learned will be an RTD beverage, is currently being produced at the company’s R&D facilities in Marysville, Ohio, and will likely launch in the US on a trial basis later this year. The pilot forms part of the company's drive to develop and test novel animal-free dairy protein-based products to complement its portfolio of plant-based alternatives.
“Consumers are looking for dairy alternatives with sustainably sourced protein but still close to milk without compromising on texture, flavor, and nutrition,” the Nestlé spokesperson said. “To better understand the potential of animal-free dairy protein-based products, we are evaluating emerging technologies in partnership with start-ups and external partners. These efforts will complement our efforts to reduce the carbon footprint in milk and our wide-ranging portfolio of plant-based alternatives.”
Joanna Yarbrough, head of the R+D Accelerator, added: "While this category is still very young, we know consumers are looking for products that have a reduced environmental footprint, and we are evaluating this avenue as a future growth opportunity for our business."
Nestlé has declined to comment on what it’s seeking to learn from the pilot, but the fact that the world’s biggest food and drinks company is testing precision fermentation technology in food production could be a significant sign of where this market is heading.
According to ResearchAndMarkets.com, the global precision fermentation market is estimated to be valued at US$1.6bn currently and is projected to grow annually by 48.1% to reach US$36.3bn by 2030.
Other major players have also made headlines in recent months. Danone announced it has turned to precision fermentation to produce animal-free casein; New Zealand dairy co-op Fonterra has launched a start-up alongside Royal DSM to produce cultivated proteins; sweetener and plant-based foods specialist Fooditive Group has pivoted to produce vegan casein, and Spanish dairy giant Pascual is running an incubation program to accelerate the adoption of cellular technologies in dairy.