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Formo team
The Formo team. Image credit: Formo

Formo nets $50m for animal-free cheese fermented from microbes

September 13, 2021

German alt-dairy startup Formo has raised $50 million in Series A funding, it announced in a company statement today.

The Series A round was led by Sweden’s EQT Ventures, with Elevat3 Capital, Lionheart Ventures, Lowercarbon Capital, and Happiness Capital — an affiliate of Hong Kong food manufacturer Lee Kum Kee — among the new investors to participate. They were joined by existing investors including Agronomics, CPT Capital, Good Seed Ventures, Grazia Equity, and M Ventures.

In a statement, Formo said the funding will be used to “turbomegacharge” its progress by hiring more talent, boosting its R&D and marketing capabilities, and scaling up its production capacity. The capital will also help the Berlin-based startup move into a new headquarters.

“We are taking the dairy parlour of the future microscopic and then back up to a size that can get in the ring with industrial dairy, gloves off,” is how Formo describes its mission.

Founded in 2018, it was originally named Legendairy Foods before a rebranding exercise earlier this year. Co-founders Britta Winterberg and Raffael Wohlgensinger set out to create alternative cheeses that would cut animal agriculture out of the equation, but wouldn’t compromise on taste, texture, and versatility as so many first-gen vegan ‘cheeses’ had done.

Their approach was to focus on replacing the animal, rather than the dairy. Formo inserts DNA sequences into microorganisms to ‘instruct’ them to produce casein and whey – the two key proteins in cow’s milk. The startup then uses precision fermentation to feed the microogranisms so that they can produce the proteins as volume. Once harvested, the proteins are combined with plant-based carbohydrates, fats, and salt, and are coagulated using traditional cheesemaking methods to form the final product.

“This allows Formo’s cheeses to have the same taste, texture, and functional properties as animal-derived cheeses but [they] come at a substantially lower cost to the environment, human health, and animal welfare,” wrote Sandra Malmberg, venture lead at EQT Ventures, in a blog post.

“With microorganisms being up to 20 times more efficient than cows in converting feed into food, there is clearly an opportunity to become price competitive once at scale, enabling Formo to take market share from the conventional cheese market.”

The startup has set itself the target of replacing 10% of Europe’s market for animal-derived dairy products with animal-free substitutes produced using precision fermentation by 2030.

Formo is the latest in a string of alt-cheese startups top have raised mega-rounds from VCs of late. Earlier this month, Sweden’s Stockeld Dreamery scored $20 million in Series A funding to expand its range of plant-based products derived from fava bean and pea protein. US-based Nobell Foods, which is using soybean plants to produce the proteins found in cow’s milk, bagged $75 million from investors including AgFunderAndreessen Horowitz, and Breakthrough Energy Ventures back in July [disclosure: AgFunder is AFN‘s parent company]; while fellow Californian outfit Miyoko’s Creamery banked $52 million in a Series C round led by PowerPlant Partners the same month.

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