Pureture, formerly knows as Armored Fresh Technologies, says it uses traditional fermentation techniques to extract proteins from yeast-based cultures to produce its plant-based casein. The process is different from precision fermentation, which leverages genetically-modified microorganisms to produce specific compounds, e.g. proteins. Using traditional methods also brings the costs down, with Pureture suggesting its ingredient is priced lower than the market average. Regulatory barriers associated with precision-derived food ingredients also do not apply here.
As for functional and sensory qualities, the plant-based casein is said to offer ‘comparable’ functionality to the dairy-based protein but lacks smell, taste or color. The ingredient is designed for use in dairy analogs as it can provide stretchiness and meltability to plant-based dairy alternatives, specifically cheese but also milk and yogurt.
Using the ingredient would also minimize and possibly eliminate the need for additives such as gums, starches and emulsifiers, making for a cleaner product label. A company spokesperson told us: “Additionally, our protein exhibits superior solubility in water and demonstrates unique functional advantages, such as the ability to emulsify with lipid components without the need for added emulsifiers, even under thermal and mechanical treatments.”
Nutritionally, the ingredient’s protein quality is on a par with the animal derivative; according to Pureture, the plant-based casein recorded the highest result of 1.0 on the protein digestibility corrected amino acid score, which indicates the non-dairy casein can provide all amino acids required in the diet.
Casein is a milk protein that creates a stable emulsion, preventing fat and water from separating, giving milk its smooth texture.
“We have not only completed nutritional verifications but also addressed the issue of 'emulsifying function,' which existing plant-based proteins often lack,” the company spokesperson summarized. “To assess the applicability of our protein as a raw material, we have produced a variety of products requiring dairy substitutes, such as plant-based cheese, protein drinks, cocoa spreads, and café lattes, to verify their functional properties.”
Now, Pureture is looking for a manufacturing partner who would be able to use the ingredient at scale for bringing clean-label plant-based products to market. Plans are still under wraps, we were told, but a company spokesperson said the following: “We are currently in a strategic supply agreement with major dairy product manufacturers in South Korea, details of which are confidential at this stage.”
Whether a partnership would be established will come down to several factors: if there is ‘clear demand’ for plant-based casein ingredients; if the manufacturing partner has the capability to develop and commercialize products using the non-dairy casein; and whether these products would fulfil the clean-label objective Pureture is after and which the company perceives as a key USP.
“One of the major strengths of our plant-based protein is its ability to make to a clean label for finished food products,” Pureture’s representative told us. “Many plant-based products on the market add unnecessary ingredients to compensate for the inadequate emulsifying properties of traditional plant-based proteins. This results in complex ingredient labels and ultimately leads consumers to ingest unnecessary additives.
“In the end, by using the protein we developed, you can replace the emulsifier or gum added to the product when manufacturing the product, so clean labels are eventually possible.”
But with the proliferation of various types of dairy alternatives on the market and concerns about dairy analogs being just another breed of ultra-processed foods that lack the nutritional value of traditional dairy, should Pureture be concerned about a consumer push-back? The company’s representative told us it’s confident that its plant-based casein alternative has several selling points in that respect, too. “Traditionally, alternative dairy or protein products have fallen short in taste, functionality, and nutritional quality compared to their animal-based counterparts, causing consumers to hesitate in making the switch,” they said. “However, the protein we have developed is not only produced without the use of GMOs, but is also manufactured through traditional fermentation techniques, assuring consumers of a safely produced ingredient.
“Additionally, its nutritional quality is on par with animal-based products, and its inherent emulsifying properties enable the minimization of food additives, thus achieving a clean label. These features alleviate consumer concerns and enhance accessibility.
“We believe that these attributes will help consumers recognize our protein as a raw material that ensures both 'naturalness' and 'safety,' thereby reducing market apprehensions and concerns.”