Israeli foodtech startup Imagindairy, Ltd., developer of animal-free dairy milk proteins, has secured an additional $15M in its extended seed-round to bring the total investment so far to $28M.
The alt-protein company creates animal-free milk proteins from microorganisms through precision-fermentation technology, which allows the production of a wide range of dairy analogs, from raw milk to cheese, all without involving animals.
Imagindairy’s dairy proteins are non-GMO, cholesterol-free, and have the same flavor, texture, functionality, and nutritional value as their animal-based counterparts.
Imagindairy’s technology recreates nature-identical, animal-free versions of whey and casein proteins that can be used to produce dairy analogs. The products have exactly the same flavor and texture – and 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, which is attractive to consumers with lactose intolerance or sensitivity.
The company added its products also address the impact livestock has on the environment.
Imagindairy said its platform also leads to the cost-effective production of animal-free milk proteins, which has typically been one of the biggest issues when it comes to alt-dairy protein production. It added being able to produce at scale means brands will be able to sell analog dairy products at consumer-friendly prices, which it said is a major requirement for mass-market adoption.
“This extremely successful seed round reflects a strong vote of confidence in Imagindairy and its vision to lead the animal-free dairy industry,” said Eyal Afergan, co-founder and CEO of Imagindairy. “This substantial injection of capital will serve to advance our ability to make true dairy alternative products a day-to-day reality.”
The funds from this seed round will be used to accelerate the company’s R&D efforts to launch a range of dairy products without using animals. The company also hopes to expand its workforce.
Imagindairy said it is already in discussions with some major dairy food producers looking to diversify their product portfolios.
The most recent round of funding was led by Target Global and joined by existing investors Strauss Group, Emerald Technology Ventures, Green Circle Foodtech Ventures, Collaborative Fund, New Climate Ventures, and FoodSparks by PeakBridge.
Shmuel Chafets, executive chairman and founder of one of the investors, Target Global, said, “It is becoming increasingly clear that, given the climate crisis and growing shortage of food, our dietary patterns and habits must change.
“Animal-free dairy has the potential to become one of the most environmentally impactful industries on the planet. We are strong believers that the Imagindairy team’s vast experience in manufacturing at scale, paired with the cutting-edge technology they have built, will be transformational for this space.”
Growth in dairy alternatives
While the dairy alternatives market is growing, over the past few years this has been primarily through companies capitalizing on the trend for plant-based foods and creating plant-based beverages from a variety of sources that now includes oat, soy, barley, almond, coconut, pea, potato, and many others. There has also been an increase in products with a blend of ingredients.
Some companies have also been looking to the growing flexitarian sector by creating products that blend plant-based and animal ingredients.
However, creating dairy alternatives that are identical to real dairy has far fewer players. One of the other prominent companies in the field is California’s Perfect Day, which in 2019 received regulatory approval for a new animal-free milk protein, and has already launched products including ice cream. Another California company, Change Foods, uses microorganisms to create animal-free cheese and other dairy products.
Berlin-based Legendairy Foods also uses microbial fermentation to create identical proteins to cow’s milk.
Another Israeli company in the space is Remilk, while Canadian company Opalia, formerly known as BetterMilk, makes whole milk by using mammary cells. It also recently announced a breakthrough that makes it possible to eliminate fetal bovine serum (FBS) from its cell-based manufacturing process.
According to Food Strategy Associates, despite a global pandemic and financial uncertainty, confidence in protein alternative start-ups was resilient, and investment in both 2020 and 2021 exceeded $3B.