A Melbourne startup producing “cheese” using fermented proteins, without cows involved, has raised an extra $16.9 million for a $21.5 million seed round.
Change Foods creates dairy proteins, known as caseins, and the cornerstone of dairy cheeses, using fermented microbes to create animal-free cheeses. The business is still some way from hitting the plate, with plans for its initial US market launch scheduled for late 2023.
Founded in 2019 by David Bucca, Sacha Baker and Junior Te’o, Change shifted to Silicon Valley late last year.
The oversubscribed round is led by US VC Route 66 Ventures, supported by Melbourne impact VC Giant Leap and local Tom Crago along with several other international backers, including Google AI boss Jeff Dean and English footballer Chris Smalling.
The Change raise is the third for an Australian plant-based protein startup in the past week, with All G scoring backing from the VC arm of Woolworths, and Queensland-based Fenn Foods landing $3 million as it too looks to go global.
Bucca, Change’s CEO, said the precision fermentation used to produce non-animal rennet has existed since the 1990s.
“We are simply extending this technology to replace milk proteins and fats, and remove the cow from the cheese entirely. That matters because out of all food products, cheese is third in greenhouse gas emissions behind beef and lamb, and first in fresh-water utilization per kilogram,” he said.
“Our mission is to transform the global cheese business with new products that deliver the indulgent taste and eating experience of traditional animal-derived products, but without the detrimental impacts of industrialized animal agriculture.”
Bucca said industry partnerships “are a critical part of our business model as we look to leverage the scale and expertise of leading industry players to rapidly expand production and go-to-market”.
The company signed two strategic collaboration agreements as part of that strategy, including with Upfield, an investor in the seed round and producer of plant-based dairy product replacements for butter, cream and cheese. The other is with food company Sigma, to work on the dairy protein science.
Route 66 Ventures managing partner Benjamin Britt said: “The team’s technological know-how and unique approach to precision fermentation provides the ability to revolutionize how we think about food and dairy without compromising on everything we like about traditional food products.”
Giant Leap’s Will Richardson called the Change Foods team “pragmatic idealists” looking to solve several of the world’s most pressing problems.
“They understand consumers want to reduce the impact of what they eat, but understand that people just love cheese,” he said.
“That’s why their world-leading technology is a game-changer in cracking the code to produce cheese that tastes, smells and feels like real cheese, without the cows and the methane they produce.”
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