New Cultures start-up team includes CSO Radman (second from right) and CEO Gibson (far right)

New Culture's start-up team includes CSO Radman (second from right) and CEO Gibson (far right)

Kraft Heinz, home to Kraft cheese, has put seed money into New Culture, a US firm developing "animal-free" varieties of the dairy product.

New Culture, set up late last year, uses fermentation instead of animals to make dairy proteins. Adding plant-based fats and sugars to add to the "traditional cheese-making process", New Culture says it is making dairy cheese that is "sustainable, healthy, ethical and indistinguishable from animal-based dairy cheese in taste, texture and function".

The San Francisco start-up said today (10 September) it had raised US$3.5m in a seed financing round led by Kraft Heinz's Evolv Ventures fund.

Kraft Heinz formed its Evolv Ventures arm last year to back what the US food giant's then CEO Bernardo Hees said would be the "most innovative founders and companies in the space".

New Culture has already worked with biotech accelerator programme IndieBio. Other investors alongside Evolv Ventures in the seed financing include US venture-capital firms Bee Partners and Mayfield, as well as CPT Capital, the investment arm of the family office of UK businessman Jeremy Coller, which has also backed companies like Beyond Meat and seafood-alternative business Good Catch.

Announcing the seed financing, New Culture said it was looking to set up an R&D and fermentation facility. CEO and co-founder Matt Gibson said: "We want to disrupt one of the oldest and largest food industries in the world by producing a better dairy cheese for anyone to enjoy - whether you're a cheese lover, lactose-intolerant, vegan, environmentally conscious or health-conscious."

Gibson's co-founder Inja Radman, who is New Culture's CSO, said the company's products would be different to plant-based cheese.

"Fully plant-based cheese doesn't work, and we know why. It lacks the crucial component which gives dairy cheese its signature properties, and that is the casein micelle, a supramolecular structure of dairy proteins that are found only in mammalian milk. We are developing the technology to make those casein micelles without involving animals in the process."

Steve Sanger, a general partner at Evolv Ventures, added: "We have been impressed by what the team accomplished during IndieBio in a short period of time and look forward to supporting their vision to produce animal-free dairy cheese. This is another example of our focus on investing in the leading companies across the food value chain."

In April, Kraft Heinz announced the first investment made through Evolv Ventures,the San Francisco-based food-to-table delivery service GrubMarket.

Earlier this year, Kraft Heinz had been reported to be looking to sell cream cheese brand Breakstone's. CNBC said in July Kraft Heinz had paused the plan after lukewarm interest from potential suitors.