Israeli foodtech startup ImaginDairy wins FDA nod for animal-free milk proteins

ImaginDairy's says fermentation-derived milk proteins akin to cow's in taste and texture and can be used for cheese, yogurt and ice cream; aiming for market debut this year with Danone and Strauss, the key challenge remains affordable, large-scale production

ImaginDairy, a firm specializing in non-animal-derived milk proteins, announced on Thursday morning that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted it approval, attesting to the product’s safety and a major step toward entering U.S. markets. The company is gearing up to launch its first products in the upcoming year.
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"This is a significant stepping stone as the recognition from the U.S. FDA attests to the safety of our high-quality milk proteins and allows us to sell them to food companies, thereby providing consumers with beloved dairy products without the need for cows," said ImaginDairy CEO Dr. Eyal Afergan.
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החלב של אימג'נדרי
החלב של אימג'נדרי
ImaginDairy milk
(Photo: Yaniv Kopel)
ImaginDairy’s milk proteins are produced through a process called precision fermentation. This method is environmentally friendly as it reduces greenhouse gas emissions, land use and water consumption associated with traditional milk production.
The company says that its uniqueness lies in the combination of artificial intelligence technology, a result of over 15 years of research at Tel Aviv University, along with advanced biotechnological methods. This allows the company to produce low-priced protein powder in industrial volumes.
ImaginDairy claims that its milk proteins are identical to cow's in taste, texture, functionality and nutritional values. These proteins can be used to create a wide variety of dairy products, such as cheese, yogurt and ice cream. Unlike animal-derived milk, ImaginDairy’s proteins contain no cholesterol, lactose or hormones.
ImaginDairy was founded in 2020 by Dr. Eyal Afergan, Dr. Arie Abo and Prof. Tamir Tuller with support from Strauss's food-tech incubator, The Kitchen. Its investors include funds such as Target Global, MoreVC, Entrée Capital, FoodSparks by PeakBridge and the global food giant Danone. To date, the company has raised over $30 million, operates from Haifa and employs more than 30 workers worldwide.
According to CEO Afergan, partnerships with food companies like Strauss and Danone will enable ImaginDairy to quickly introduce its products to the market with minimal barriers.
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החלב של אימג'נדרי
החלב של אימג'נדרי
ImaginDairy milk
(Photo: Courtesy)
He believes that "the world, as it is today, cannot meet the ever-growing food demand without innovative production methods. The way to enhance sustainable food security is through advanced technologies that enable the production of nutritious and high-quality food with minimal use of natural resources."
ImaginDairy is one of a handful of companies that have received FDA approval to market in the U.S. dairy products based on proteins created through fermentation.
Another such company is Remilk, which received FDA approval in June 2022 and clearance from the Israeli Health Ministry (which ImaginDairy has yet to receive) in April 2023. Remilk is expected soon to launch its protein-based dairy products in collaboration with Tnuva. U.S. firm Perfect Day received FDA approval as early as 2020.
Nir Goldstein, head of the GFI Israel research institute, which promotes the Israeli alternative protein sector, told Ynet following ImaginDairy’s announcement, "Several companies worldwide are competing in the new dairy realms produced through fermentation. While most can produce milk protein without cows in laboratory conditions, the real challenge is to produce it in commercial quantities at a reasonable price and develop products that satisfy the broad public in terms of taste.
"The dairy category is the most developed in the alternatives world, with about 15% of the milk market in Israel and the U.S. currently produced from plant-based milk. At GFI, we believe that thanks to startups like ImaginDairy, by 2030, over 40% of the milk market could be animal-free, contributing significantly to the planet, human health and food security. This will require governmental investments in infrastructure, research and regulation, and in truth, Israel is also a global leader in these aspects."
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