Dairy farming has a huge impact on the climate and Change Foods wants to change that, without giving up cheese and yogurt.
We spoke to founder and CEO, David Bucca about the future of food.
What does your business do, and who are your customers?
We are an animal-free dairy company, currently developing a new way of producing real milk proteins and dairy foods by using microbes instead of cows. We are doing this by applying a decades old technology, called precision fermentation, to create real milk proteins like whey and casein, which serve as key building blocks of animal-free dairy foods. We are starting with cheese.
Cheese is one of the most beloved foods, globally. However, there is a problem with cheese. Because traditional cheese requires significant land and water resources to produce, as well as emitting high levels of greenhouse gases, it just isn’t sustainable. So, we knew the time was right to transform the dairy industry by making dairy cheese without the animals and their associated impacts.
Our customers are cheese lovers everywhere, as well as other dairy food companies who are looking for better ingredients to help them achieve their sustainability objectives. We are reinventing the cheese industry with sustainable, animal-free milk proteins and other ingredients that deliver uncompromising taste and eating experience, while vastly improving sustainability footprint of popular dairy foods.
What’s your mission?
Our mission is to transform the dairy industry and help usher in a new era of thriving, sustainable and kind animal-free foods. We recognize that the global food system is a significant contributor to global climate change, responsible for a third of the global greenhouse gas emissions. About half of that comes from raising animals for food. We simply cannot continue to produce food this way if we are to feed over 9 billion people sustainably by 2050.
What does it mean to you, to be a ‘social enterprise’?
We are driven by our mission to create a food system that is thriving, sustainable and kind. Part of the future food transformation lies in creating new ways of producing our favorite dairy foods, animal-free. This would have a tremendous impact not only on sustainability aspects such as land and water use, greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation and biodiversity loss, but will also open up possibilities for improved food security of nations as well as localizing this incredible new technology in different parts of the globe. It is a transformation that not only minimizes harm associated with existing industrialized animal agriculture, but also creates new economic and social development opportunities for the future.
Our beliefs and values inform our decisions, our brand narrative, and business priorities. As consumer sentiment and concern about the relationship between food choices and climate impact increases, we’re confident our business model and product design will successfully position Change Foods as a progressive choice in a transforming marketplace.
Can you scale a mission? Are there challenges around growing your business, while also staying committed to your impact thesis?
Cheese is an $89 billion global food category that is currently not sustainable. Its broad appeal and high consumption rates present us with an incredibly large addressable market for better animal-free cheese and dairy products. By re-creating the milk proteins without animals, we are able to fundamentally shift this massive system in a new and sustainable direction, while satisfying consumers’ desire to make more sustainable choices in the foods they buy.
How have you seen investor sentiment change over the past 5 years, when it comes to recognizing the value (or cost) of being mission-led?
In 2021 alone $1.9 billion (USD) was invested in the fast-developing Precision Fermentation sector, which is on par with the $2.1 billion raised in 2020 and almost three times the $693 million raised in 2019. This form of conscious capitalism is driving a ‘hockey stick’ growth curve of investment in emerging technologies and brands that are working to transform the food system.
By definition this is a category of mission-driven organizations that have rallied in response to the current food system that each and every day is contributing significant levels of greenhouse gas emissions, and is the leading user of land and freshwater resources globally. Investors recognize the economic value associated with sustainable food technologies, and also understand the economic and climate consequences should the food industry fail to transform.
Was there a business (either local or globally) that influenced the development of your organization?
We are incredibly thankful to several ecosystem building organizations such as The Good Food Institute, New Harvest, and Food Frontier in Australia. They serve an important function in bringing the industry together, sharing knowledge, making connections as well as advocating for broader policy changes. Every single startup in our space benefits from having a thriving ecosystem of mission-driven founders, investors, collaborators and supporters to drive it forward.
What’s in store for your business in 2022?
We have successfully pioneered the creation of animal-free casein protein that is bioidentical to the traditional cow-derived version. We are now in the process of scaling the production of these proteins and creating our first animal-free mozzarella and cheddar prototypes.
We are incredibly fortunate to have amazing corporate global food partners in Upfield (owner of popular plant-based cheese brand Violife), Orkla, and Sigma Foods in Mexico, who share our mission to develop animal-free dairy for the future of our planet.