If plant-based milk has become mainstream—the category is now a $2 billion market in the U.S.—the same can’t be said for vegan cheese. While several startups are working on the problem, it’s challenging to replicate the taste and texture of cheese made from cow milk, and plant-based alternatives struggle to avoid a plastic-like texture and bland taste.
In Israel, a startup called Remilk is taking a different approach: By creating lab-made dairy protein that’s identical to the natural version, it can make a vegan, lactose-free, cholesterol-free cheese that tastes like the real thing. It’s a similar process to the one that Perfect Day, a Silicon Valley startup, uses to make ice cream and yogurt.
Remilk focuses on the casein protein, the element that it says is most critical to making cheese taste like cheese, with the same stretchiness and mouthfeel. “This huge gap between plant-based cheese and real cheese is represented almost entirely by casein micelles,” says Aviv Wolff, cofounder and CEO of Remilk. (Micelles are “supramolecules” that each contain tens of thousands of individual casein proteins; Perfect Day has focused more on the whey protein, another key element of dairy.). “This unique structure of the proteins, that has only been found in mammalian milk, is where the magic happens, and is responsible for all the different qualities that we love about dairy products.”