New Zealand-based food technology startup New Culture is working to create vegan cheese that closely mimics its dairy-derived counterpart. Similar to the process used by plant-based meat brand Impossible Foods, the company is working with elements of dairy on a molecular level to create plant-based substitutes that closely resemble cheese. “We want to make amazing tasting vegan cheese that is better in taste, structure, and function when compared with dairy cheese—as well as being healthier, far more sustainable, and able to be enjoyed by everyone,” Matt Gibson, CEO and co-founder of New Culture, told Digital Trends. New Culture is first focusing on developing vegan mozzarella using a microbe that replicates the function of casein—a dairy-derived protein that is credited with giving cheese its distinctive texture and flavor. The startup is currently participating in IndieBio—a highly regarded biotechnology accelerator program that previously assisted companies such as Memphis Meats, Finless Foods, and New Wave Foods. The development of the product is still in its early stages but Gibson says that once the company raises sufficient capital, he hopes to have New Culture’s vegan mozzarella available to the public within 18 months.

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