Bel Group teams with Superbrewed Food to make postbiotic cheeses

Dive Brief:

  • Bel Group is partnering with protein ingredient company Superbrewed Food in an exclusive strategic collaboration to make cheese products with its signature ingredient. Superbrewed Food’s protein, made through fermentation, is found in nature and converts plants into proteins humans need.
  • The protein will be available from Superbrewed’s Delaware manufacturing facility in the first half of 2023. Bel said in a statement that the cheese products could come to consumers “very soon.”
  • Bel has been expanding into the alternative protein space for years. The company committed to creating hybrid and plant-based versions of its cheeses in 2019, and launched Nurishh, a new all-plant-based cheese brand, last year.

DiveInsight:

This partnership with Superbrewed is the kind of innovation that Bel has had at its core for the last several years. While most traditional cheesemakers have been slow to embrace plant-based ingredients and other alternative proteins, Bel has developed plant-based and hybrid versions of its signature cheeses, including Laughing Cow wedges and wax-coated Babybel rounds.

In an interview last year, Bill Graham, then CEO of the company’s US division Bel Brands USA, said that the company sees plant-based as a “tremendous opportunity.”

Superbrewed’s ingredient is designed to make plant protein a more efficient and wholesome source of nutrition. And while Bel officials told Food Navigator they will likely use the protein in both dairy and plant-based cheeses, Superbrewed says the ingredient will confer many nutritional benefits regardless of how it is used.

The ingredient, which is defined as a postbiotic — a beneficial substance that is produced by probiotics and prebiotics — contains all nine essential amino acids, the company says. One serving is rich in B vitamins and minerals including iron, phosphorus and magnesium. By weight, it’s more than 80% protein.

The ingredient achieved self-affirmed generally recognized as safe status in May. This is Superbrewed’s first partnership with a CPG brand, though the company has been working on its own alternative milk and protein shakes. They could hit the market later this year.

Superbrewed’s CEO Bryan Tracy told Food Dive last year he wants the company to be able to use the power of CPG branding to tell the story of the ingredient — which essentially replicates the microorganisms naturally found in the digestive systems of large herbivorous animals like gorillas that allow them to thrive on plant-only diets.

Superbrewed is working with several other CPG brands, Tracy wrote in New Food Magazine earlier this year. It’s possible the ingredient could eventually be used in a variety of other applications. While it’s not clear what kind of exclusivity exists in the agreement with Bel, Superbrewed said its ingredient can be used in a variety of places ranging from baked goods to protein bars.

Bel also said in the statement that it wants to accelerate its work in biomass fermentation, which is the technology Superbrewed uses to create its ingredient. This kind of fermentation, which leverages the fast growth and high protein content of microorganisms to create a new kind of protein ingredient, is not often used in cheese production.

But fermentation has been touted as a more sustainable way to create the kinds of ingredients that generally come from animals. This could be the beginning of new alternative ways to make cheese or other traditional dairy products with low carbon footprints and high nutritional content.

Correction: We have updated this story to indicate that Bill Graham’s comments were made during his tenure as CEO of Bel Brands USA.

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