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  • Writer's picturePhoebe Fraser

Climax Foods unveils plant-based casein replacement made with AI

AI food-tech start-up Climax Foods has announced the discovery of the “first-ever” plant-based protein ingredient that replicates the functional performance – in particular the melt and stretch – of the dairy protein casein.

The start-up that leverages data science and machine intelligence to create animal-free products from plants said that it is “the first company in history to successfully replicate the functionality, texture and taste of the major protein in animal milk using only plant ingredients”.

The alternative to animal-based casein is free of hormones, antibiotics or any of the top eight allergens. According to the company, its ‘precision formulation’ process allows the protein to be produced sustainably at scale, with price parity to traditional animal-based casein.

Climax Foods unveils plant-based casein replacement made with AI

‘Precision formulation’ uses data science and AI to significantly speed up the discovery of optimal ingredient and process combinations that fully harness the power of plants.

According to the company, while food innovation can take “centuries” of trial and error, Climax’s AI-powered ‘precision formulation’ process “dramatically accelerates innovation and discovery”.

Climax CEO and founder, Oliver Zahn, said: "As foodies and scientists, we have a profound appreciation for the complex flavours and textures of dairy products, but also recognise their vast inefficiencies – such as requiring 700 gallons of water to make one pound of cheese. Our production process uses 500 times less water at our current pilot scale."

He continued: “We're not changing any ingredients genetically; we're using what is already there. The difference comes from our depth of knowledge of the rich biodiversity of the plant kingdom down to a cellular level. Plants can impart all of the same texture, taste, and performance of animal-based ingredients – our AI-enabled Deep Plant Intelligence platform takes away the guesswork.”

“For our casein replacement, our AI platform and precision formulation process helped us uncover a mechanism in specific plant proteins that imparts indistinguishable melt and stretch and mouthfeel from casein while also dramatically improving nutrition."

In April, Climax Foods announced it was partnering with Bel Group to innovate cutting-edge plant-based cheeses indistinguishable from dairy cheeses.

Bel Group's director of research and applications, Anne Pitkowski, commented: "Caseins are involved in all dairy transformations including cheese, yogurt, cream and others. They are directly responsible for the product texture, stability and, moreover, bring the very unique property of stretchability. Those properties are linked to the specific micellar structure of the casein assemblage that, until Climax Foods' discovery, had not been met anywhere else in nature."

Climax Foods says that its ‘precision formulation’ process can eventually be applied to replace other animal-based foods.


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