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Israeli foodtech startup secures US regulatory nod for cow-free dairy protein

Imagindairy seeks to partner with US food companies to scale up the production of its animal-free protein used in cow-free dairy products like cheeses, yogurt and ice cream

Israeli foodtech startup Imagindairy Ltd. has received US regulatory clearance that its animal-free proteins can be safely used in the production of dairy duplicates, like milk and cheeses.

Imagindairy is the third company after Israel’s Remilk and California-based Perfect Day to attain a so-called “no questions letter” from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for its animal-free whey protein, which is needed to be able to sell it to food manufacturers in the US.

“We are now poised to provide this innovative ingredient to food companies, offering consumers the experience of dairy without reliance on traditional livestock,” said Imagindairy’s co-founder and CEO Eyal Afergan.

Founded in 2020 by Afergan, Dr. Arie Abo and Prof. Tamir Tuller, Imagindairy has developed precision fermentation technology that teaches microorganisms such as yeast or fungi to produce milk proteins that the startup says are identical to those in cow’s milk in that they have the same taste, texture, functionality and nutritional value, yet are free of hormones.

The technology, based on 15 years of research led by Tuller, a professor at Tel Aviv University, recreates animal-free versions of whey and casein proteins that can be used to produce any dairy duplicates. The whey proteins are the building blocks for developing a full range of non-dairy products that mimic dairy versions with the same quantity of protein and fat as cow’s milk but without any cholesterol or lactose.

Following the FDA clearance, Afergan said the startup is now looking to partner with food companies, to “bring dairy staples like milk, cream cheese, ice cream and yogurt to the market without compromising taste, price or experience.”

Back in May, French dairy giant Danone made a strategic investment into Imagindairy, which the startup said could pave the way for joint collaboration on developing animal-free dairy products. Afergan told The Times of Israel last year that the startup was planning to launch products in Israel together with the Strauss Group, once it has the necessary regulatory approvals from local health authorities.

The Haifa-headquartered startup is made up of a multidisciplinary team of 30 experts in microbiology, computational systems and biotechnology with the support of Israel-based The Kitchen FoodTech hub.

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