It’s been a momentous year for Remilk, the Israeli precision-fermentation company that creates non-animal dairy proteins. Around three years since the startup first arrived on the alternative dairy scene, the company is breaking ground on a cell-ag factory in Denmark as it bids to scale-up the production of lab-grown dairy proteins. Remilk is also eyeing an expansion into the US market – something that is looking increasingly likely since the firm declared GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe, as the abbreviation reads) status this year. In late August, the company also announced its new chairman in Tomer Harpaz, an experienced Israeli entrepreneur, who has in the past launched food tech innovation program Alpha Strauss and food tech incubator, The Kitchen.
Meanwhile, the cell-ag space is increasingly busy, with the precision fermentation market alone forecast to grow by more than 41% annually in the next decade, with dairy proteins such as whey and casein set to be the second largest segment, according to ResearchAndMarkets.com.
It’s no surprise then that investors are eager to pour cash into the precision fermentation market, with US$1.7bn having been invested in 2021 and more than US$500m in Q1 2022 alone. Remilk has itself raised US$120m in a Series B investment round in January 2022.
Scaling up production however is what many biotech startups struggles with, but Remilk appears to have overcome this hurdle, as the company’s CEO Aviv Wolff told DairyReporter: “Remilk has already started high-volume production in several locations around the world. We are on a mission to transform the entire dairy industry and provide quality dairy for all consumers, everywhere, so our target audience is as large as the number of dairy-lovers out there.”
This ambition has been backed-up by plans to build ‘the world’s largest precision fermentation facility’, in Kalundborg, Denmark. Little had been known about the project since its announcement made headlines in April this year, but according to Wolff, things have been quietly ticking over. “The Danish facility will be our first fully-owned facility and production at this facility will begin as soon as the build-out is complete,” he told us this month. “We plan to break ground by the end of this year to build the world’s largest full-scale precision fermentation facility on more than 750,000sq.ft of newly-acquired land within the Symbiosis project. This next major milestone represents Remilk’s continued leadership in the rapidly developing category by demonstrating its commitment toward production at scale.”
Kalundborg Symbiosis, as the area is also known, was founded in the 1970s as a partnership between nine companies that, well, functioned in symbiosis by adopting a circular approach to production. According to the European Circular Economy Stakeholder Platform, some projects that originated at the site are already being implemented at larger scales. At the new facility, Remilk will produce non-animal dairy protein for use in products like cheese, yogurt and ice cream utilizing precision fermentation technology, we were told.
Across the pond, the North American precision fermentation scene is the world’s largest, and Wolff has been vocal about his company’s ambition to compete in what is looking to be an increasingly busy niche – and one that is attracting the attention of the likes of Danone and Nestlé, the latter having recently teamed up with food tech company Perfect Day to get animal-free proteins for its pilot ready-to-drink product.
“The US is a very important market for us, which is why we underwent the process that led to our declaration of self-affirmed GRAS, enabling us to sell our protein in the US,” Wolff explained. “We are already engaging with dozens of companies, including some of the world's most popular brands in the US and around the globe.”
'Consumers won't have to compromise in order to enjoy dairy'
Reflecting more widely on the future of the market, Wolff said: “Our ability to provide food manufacturers with a dairy protein that enables the production of real dairy, identical in taste and texture but without lactose, cholesterol and hormones means that we are heading towards a new reality in which consumers won’t have to compromise in order to enjoy animal-free dairy.”
“We’re constantly conducting research to better understand our potential consumers and we know that health concerns, and within them lactose intolerance, are leading motivations for dairy avoidance,” he added. “Products based on our protein are perfectly positioned to address these concerns. But the great thing about dairy made with Remilk is that it’ll provide a wonderful solution for traditional-dairy consumers as well.”
Asked about the future of the non-dairy and the dairy-hybrids product space, Wolff said: “Clearly, there is consumer interest in these categories, and growing demand. We believe Remilk has a clear advantage since we seamlessly replace dairy proteins from animals, enabling the reinvention of dairy that sports the same characteristics, nutrition, flavor profile as animal milk dairy. Because of this advantage, Remilk could help accelerate the animal-free dairy category.”
The plan to do this is through supporting CPG companies that make and sell products using traditional dairy protein. “Our goal is to ensure that companies have a partner they can turn to and count on for outstanding products that not only address concerns consumers have, but don’t require them to compromise on the taste they love. By working with global leaders in the dairy industry, who are extremely sensitive to their consumers’ needs and preferences, we believe we will generate a real revolution in every dairy category out there.”
This article has been edited on September 28, 2022 to correct a statement that Remilk has 'declared' rather than 'obtained' its GRAS status.