💡 Optimist's Edge: Milk without cows
A factory in Denmark can replace nine percent of Danish cows. Milk and other dairy products can be produced in bioreactors by precision in the fermentation process. Foodtech companies all over the world are now working hard to create a future where cows become redundant.
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📉 What people think
There is a strong belief that milk from cows is something natural for humans - unlike those produced in bioreactors by humans in lab coats.
Among Warp respondents, the perception is clear: as many as 81 percent answer no to the question of whether they could consider drinking milk created in a bioreactor.
But today's milk is also not a product that is free from process technology - on the contrary, it happens quite a lot in the manufacturing process until your milk is on the table.
It is not uncommon to be skeptical of innovations that initially seem unnecessary and impossible. Soon we can enjoy products that look identical to regular milk - with significantly lower impact on animals, climate, land, water use and health.
📈 Here are the facts
- The technique is called precision fermentation - the brewing process takes place in bioreactors with the help of microorganisms - such as algae or yeast - programmed to create protein. The difficulty is to artificially scale up the production of casein and whey, but the development is progressing rapidly.
- It's not just about milk - If you have established a well-functioning milk protein, you are free to experiment with cheese, yogurt, ice cream and other dairy products. That is why the industry is growing strongly now.
- The market is gigantic - the consulting firm BCG estimates that 11 percent of the global consumption of eggs, milk, meat and fish will be replaced by alternative protein sources by 2035. It may not sound like much (and there are more optimistic scenarios), but considering that levels in the year of 2020 were 574 million tonnes, there is a significant market to cover.
- Options needed - the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that the demand for animal protein will increase between 50-100 percent by 2050.
- Research and idealism - cell-based agriculture is largely driven by equal parts climate-committed zealots and nerdy lab rats, which makes it all interesting. The combination is quite exciting.
- Milk without side effects - Sweden's dairy farmers work according to solid laws regarding animal welfare, cleanliness and antibiotics. This is not the case in all countries. A significant point is that the new products will be free of lactose, antibiotics, hormones and chemicals.
What are the challenges?
- Costly - it is still expensive and complicated to scale up production. Brewing milk in bioreactors is associated with high investment costs, but as volumes can be scaled up, costs will drop significantly - just as with most new innovations.
- What should it be called? One challenge is the concepts. In the EU, a new law was hammered out in 2020, which states that plant-based dairy substitutes may no longer be called milk, yogurt, etc. But what does that mean for this type of company? Milk and cheese produced by precision fermentation are in fact milk and cheese, because they contain milk protein. And thus allergic individuals must be informed that the product contains real milk.
- Consumers are skeptical - a report from FoodHack points out that there is an important threshold in convincing consumers of the excellence of the new milk (the 81 percent above who are skeptical).
What does the expert say?
Daniel Skavén Ruben is a food tech expert at Warp News. In addition to his job at the plant-based cheese challenger Stockeld Dreamery, he is a diligent advisor and investor in several different startups in the field. He believes that several important pieces around the new milk are falling into place.
- Many market participants now get together nutritional content, functionality and taste. Price and upscaling are the last factors that will take a little longer.
Why is this an important product in the future?
- Given that there are approximately 300 million dairy cows in the world that can only produce milk for a period of four years, there is a huge potential for alternatives. Humans have always used animals in their evolution - until they came up with techniques that were more resource-efficient (for example, the whale oil that was replaced by the kerosene, which was replaced by the light bulb). With the coming global population increase, it is obvious that there is a large market for non-animal milk that has exactly the same characteristics as regular products.
What other products do you see in the future?
- I meet companies that develop everything from insect-free dyes to fossil-free manure and foie gras (fat liver) from bioreactors. Some innovations will take a couple of years, while others will take decades, but everything points in the same direction - the food system will be transformed.
Do not miss Daniel's newsletter FoodTech Weekly.
💡 Optimist's Edge
With increased climate commitment, decreasing costs, increasing research funding, and a growing population, sustainable milk alternatives will in all probability only become more and better.
The brewed milk will be resource-efficient. Although the process is costly today, it requires much less land, water consumption, fossil fuels - and animals that emit greenhouse gases, such as methane.
By looking at today's trends, we can state that the industry is at the beginning of the exponential warp curve, but all indications are that the next 10 years will be very interesting.
👇 How to get the Optimist's Edge
Whether you are a curious consumer, ambitious student, or investor looking for the hottest future industries, this is an area to keep an eye on.
All companies that survive this first development phase will eventually become shell companies that need everything from researchers and engineers to experts in logistics, brand building, packaging, and nutrition.
According to BCG's report, the alternative protein market could be worth $290 billion by 2035.
There is a strong cash flow into the ecosystem for alternative proteins. An example is the Israeli startup Remilk, which recently raised SEK 1.2 billion to build a production facility for cultured milk in Denmark of 70,000 square meters.
Investments in conventional animal industries such as the dairy industry risk becoming "stranded assets", due to the rapid technological development.
CHRISTIAN VON ESSEN
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