Australia may be one of the world's largest exporters of animal protein but it is also home to a rising wave of innovation in alternatives to livestock agriculture, with Canberra-based Nourish Ingredients using the Sydney SXSW festival to show off an animal-free cooking fat it claims to be a world-first.
Derived from nature and scaled through precision fermentation, Tastilux took Nourish Ingredients' team of scientists more than three years to develop as they sought to recreate the most flavourful fats found inside animal meat by using only lipids found in nature.
The company, which 12 months ago raised US$28.6 million in Series A funding in a round led by Horizons Ventures with support from Main Sequence Ventures and Hostplus, claims the proprietary fat provides the distinct taste and aroma of traditional meat fats and enables real cooking reactions when used in plant-based chicken, beef, pork and other proteins.
At SXSW, Nourish Ingredients demonstrated Tastilux’s capabilities through a realistic, plant-based chicken wing, crafted by the company's head of culinary innovation Ernesto Rodriguez Vecilla.
The startup's CEO James Petrie, who co-founded the business in 2019 with chief technical officer (CTO) Dr Anna El-Tahchy, describes Tastilux as a "quantum leap" in making plant-based meats live up to the rich, fatty taste and cooking performance consumers want and love.
"We saw an opportunity to revolutionise plant proteins by focusing on the power of fat. Most alternative fats simply can’t replicate the rich, authentic flavour of cooked meat," Petrie explains.
"To rather than take a plant-based approach, we analysed the most flavourful animal fats in their uncooked state. Then identified where we could find these in nature, without the animal.
"By fermenting only the most potent fats, we’re able to recreate the authentic meat experience. Our unique process unlocks new possibilities for plant protein foods to deliver the satisfying taste and texture consumers crave."
The release comes hot on the heels of a recent merger of two of Australia's leading plant-based meat brands vEEF and LOVE BUDS. The latter is aimed more at the foodservice level and was developed by Sydney-based ALL G Foods, which like Nourish Ingredients is also using precision fermentation but with a focus on synthetic or 'nature-identical' dairy.
Another animal-free dairy startup, Eden Brew, raised $25 million earlier this month to scale its product. Backers include Australian music legends Bernard Fanning and Angus Stone, as well as Nourish Ingredients supporter Main Sequence, a deep tech innovation fund established by the CSIRO.
Earlier this year Sydney-based cultivated meat company Vow Food made a splash at Dutch science museum Nemo by using cell cultures to create a meatball from the extinct woolly mammoth, filling in gaps in the genome with DNA sequences from the African elephant and inserting the synthesised gene into a sheep muscle cell. Melbourne-based Magic Valley has also created cultivated lamb and pork meat prototypes.
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