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Real Milk, No Cows: Israeli Startup Imagindairy Introduces Fast-to-Market Functional Animal-Free Dairy Proteins

Though the rise and rise of plant-based milks has been outstanding, many consumers of cow’s milk products may feel plant-based dairy alternatives fall short of meeting their sensory demands. Israeli start-up Imagindairy Ltd. is creating true dairy proteins via a natural process of precision fermentation, yet still leaving the cow out of the equation. 

The unique protein structure of dairy milk is what provides its characteristic texture, flavor, and nutritional value. Imagindairy’s animal-free dairy products boast the same complement of nutrients as cow’s milk, from protein content to mineral composition, including calcium. At the same time, the proprietary technology radically lowers the burden of dairy livestock on the environment.

Imagindairy team in lab, ©Rami Shlush

While the plant-based and cell-cultured sectors continue to expand – both in dairy alternatives and beyond – the fermentation sector has emerged as the third pillar of alternative proteins at a staggering rate. $587 million was invested in fermentation companies in 2020 alone, representing more than half of the all-time investment in the segment. According to a recent GFI report, 51 fermentation companies focused exclusively or predominantly on alternative proteins are currently in operation, developing fungi, yeast, algae, or dairy proteins. 

Recreating Casein and Whey

Imagindairy’s proprietary technology recreates nature-identical, animal-free versions of whey and casein proteins that can be used to produce dairy analogs. With the same flavor, texture, and functionality of their animal-based counterparts, it opens new opportunities to develop a full range of non-dairy products that perfectly mimic dairy versions yet contain no cholesterol, or GMO’s. They also are lactose-free, serving consumers with lactose intolerance or sensitivity. 

“Our microflora-based production method was inspired by nature to recreate these proteins,” explains Eyal Afergan, PhD, Co-founder and CEO of Imagindairy. 

Imagindairy’s technology can be readily integrated into existing dairy food production facilities. The Israeli start-up has already raised US$1.5M in seed funding and will soon enter its A-round funding series. Israel boasts significant investment in the alt protein sphere, with a new study revealing the total investment in companies developing alt proteins in Israel has increased X8 across the plant-based, cell-cultured, and fermentation fields.

cows animal agriculture
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“Our vision was to deliver an animal-free version of the primary dairy proteins — whey and casein — that can allow product makers to match real dairy products in terms of protein concentration, nutrient profile, and the full sensory experiences of the animal-derived versions,” continued Afergan. “I look forward to being able to give my kids such treats as a cup of nutritious, tasty milk or creamy yogurt without the hard impact on animals or on the environment they must inherit.”

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