Dairy-free start-up creams it with $2.7 million ‘seed’ round

Tuesday 26 March 2024

A start-up sprung out from research at Te Kunenga ki Pūrehuroa Massey University and the Riddet Institute has raised $2.7 million in ‘seed’ funding for its novel technology extracting plant-based milk from seeds.

An eclair with ANDFOODS dairy-free whipping cream.

Palmerston North-based ANDFOODS uses the seeds or ‘pulses’ of a legume to create a range of allergen free, great-tasting dairy alternatives, without compromising the environment. 

The investment round will allow the startup to take its product to market and accelerate its research and development (R&D) efforts, says ANDFOODS Chief Executive Officer Alex Devereux.

“With the amount of R&D that’s been invested, ANDFOODS is in an incredible position as we go into the market with a product that has years of science behind it. As well as being one of the few allergen-free dairy alternatives, our process uses fermentation to help give ANDFOODS greater control of flavour profile and other important properties,” Mr Devereux says.

Since launching as a company less than a year ago, the company has seen a flurry of momentum as it adds former Synlait Chief Executive Leon Clement as its chair and begins product development work with some of the largest food companies in the world. 

ANDFOODS dairy-free whipping cream.

The seed funding was led by Icehouse Ventures. The instant commercial momentum made the investment decision a simple one, according to Icehouse Ventures partner Barnaby Marshall.

“No one is doubting the demand for dairy-free products. Consumers want them, the environment needs them, but at the end of the day they have to stand up to the taste test. When I first heard about ANDFOODS, I put it into the bucket of 'another plant based milk' and was duly sceptical. Then I tasted it. ANDFOODS has developed something that is poised to become a fundamental ingredient for all kinds of food producers, at a high enough quality that it’s immune to changing trends,” Mr Marshall says.

Though many dairy alternatives do a reasonable job of capturing the taste and texture of dairy milk, few to date have come close to emulating the measurable quality of high grade cow-based creams or milk powders.

However, ANDFOODS’ signature cream product has already eclipsed all other plant-based creams in their lab and kitchen testing, with a consistent 140 per cent overrun (its ability to take on air and maintain shape) and creamy taste profile. These overrun results are more comparable to the standard bearing ultra high temperature (UHT) creams preferred by commercial kitchens and food manufacturers.

Originally used as an ‘orphan crop’ to regenerate soil between rice harvests, the legume at the heart of ANDFOODS’ research was a brain wave from the company’s Chief Technology Officer and Co-founder Dr Arup Nag.

Dr Nag was born and raised in India, before beginning work as a researcher at Massey University and the Riddet Institute in 2010. During Massey’s investigation into new candidates for plant-based milks, Dr Nag recalled the latent potential of a legume seed from his homeland India, which guided the ensuing multi-year R&D efforts. 

“This has been a union of the special ingredients native to my home in India, combined with the resources and expertise from the team at the Riddet Institute. With ANDFOODS we now have the means to commercialise this scientific discovery and provide the best plant-based cream and ingredients to the world,” Dr Nag says.

ANDFOODS co-founders Dr Arup Nag (left) and Alex Devereux.

The start-up is the latest commercialisation success to emerge from Massey University's Riddet Institute following other significant deals such as the sale of FERRI PRO iron encapsulation technology to Nestlé in 2018. Massey Ventures Commercialisation Manager Dr Dan Carlisle says there is no sign of slowing down.

"The Riddet Institute are at the forefront of food science and it's a real pleasure to work with them to bring innovations like this to the world. ANDFOODS intellectual property enables some seriously good plant-based dairy-alternatives that really speak to the quality of the research going on at Massey University and the Riddet Institute," Dr Carlisle says.

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