New Culture raising new funds amid investor “bullishness” about animal-free dairy

The group's casein product was deemed Generally Recognised as Safe last month.

Fiona Holland March 01 2024

New Culture is raising funds in a Series B round as the animal-free dairy business prepares to launch a mozzarella product into US foodservice.

The California-based company has raised $35m since it was founded in 2018.

Speaking to Just Food, CEO Matt Gibson said: “We are still raising venture capital and continue to do so as we hit these key inflection points and reach net income. There’s a lot of bullishness still in this space from investors which is great, especially for casein.”

Casein protein is found in animal-based dairy products such as milk, yogurt and cheese. New Culture develops an animal-free version of the protein using precision fermentation techniques.

The group was coy about disclosing details on the current funding round.

Previous investors in New Culture include Kraft Heinz, agri-food giant ADM and South Korea’s CJ CheilJedang. Financial backers have included S2G, CPT Capital and Be8.

When asked how much money the company expected to need to support its expansion, Gibson said: “We don't need massive rounds.”

He added: “We’ve already built our key technology foundation, we have a capex-light approach to our precision fermentation and therefore we can get to profit in a much leaner, more efficient capital need than other companies in this space.”

New Culture first indicated plans of an additional fundraiser prior to commercialisation to Just Food in 2022.

The business works with contract manufacturers to develop its casein and animal-free mozarella both in the US and outside its domestic market.

Gibson would not disclose the specific states nor countries its contract work took place. “We have a relatively large international footprint as relates to our production,” he said.

New Culture had its GRAS (Generally Recognised as Safe) status approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last month, allowing the novel ingredient to be sold and used in food production in the country.

The achievement allows the group to continue ahead with its its planned launch into foodservice at the end of 2024 in Pizzeria Mozza in Los Angeles, a restaurant owned by chef Nancy Silverton.

Gibson was reluctant to reveal details of the other restaurants or locations with which the company was partnering but he did indicate the group would work with "a handful of chefs" to launch a mozzarella product on pizzas into 2025.

New Culture also plans to sell its animal-free cheese in retailers, though Gibson said it had no target date in mind, adding the product would need to be cheaper than plant-based cheese by the time it was ready to market in the grocery channel.

Gibson hesitated to predict how much cheese the group expected to make in its first year of launching the product, but said it would be making “millions of pounds of cheese to service hundreds of thousands of operators” by the time it hit retail. “Then, we’ll be at prosperity”, he said.

After achieving GRAS status for its animal-free casein, Gibson said New Culture is now waiting to obtain a ‘No Questions Letter’ from the FDA to prepare itself for future work with "much larger retailers and foodservice operators".

He added the document was "an extra... stamp of approval that some people want to see".

The group is planning to sell the mozzarella as a block and shred-like product, with consumers keen "to see those different formats".

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