This week, food-tech companies are making major strides in replicating meat, milk, and seafood without the need to slaughter animals. 

Spanish company Better Balance is spreading its vegan reach to Boston (on the menu at Saus) and Mexico (as part of a co-branding deal with vegan steak maker Chunk Foods).  

Plus, Oreos just dropped a galactic limited-edition cookie that’s made even more fun with popping candies. And Oatly just made its oat milk desserts available at 95-year-old ice cream chain Carvel. Read on for more. 

Vegan tech news

Every week, it becomes more apparent that the foods we love—be it cheese, milk, meat, or seafood—do not need to come from farmed animals. 

This month, food-tech startup Imagindairy achieved a major milestone by obtaining FDA approval to introduce animal-free dairy proteins to the US market. These innovative dairy proteins are made using precision fermentation and not only mimic the taste, texture, and nutritional value of traditional cow’s dairy proteins but also come with added benefits such as being cholesterol-free, lactose-free, and hormone-free. 

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The company, backed by notable investors, is poised to offer consumers in the US a sustainable and ethically produced alternative in various dairy products such as milk, cream cheese, ice cream, and yogurt.

Biotech company Pureture (formerly Armored Fresh) has found a partner in South Korean dairy company Namyang, which plans to use its yeast-based animal-free milk proteins to develop next-gen dairy products. As part of this collaboration, Namyang will incorporate Pureture’s innovation includes non-GMO plant-based casein that matches the functionality and digestibility of animal-derived milk, allowing for the creation of dairy-free products with a similar taste, texture, and functionality to traditional dairy. 

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In meat tech news, startup Aleph Farms just got regulatory approval from Israel’s Ministry of Health to sell its cultivated beef to the public, marking the world’s first approval for cultivated beef. Aleph Farms will introduce its first product, a premium Angus-style thin steak called the “Petit Steak,” in select restaurants and later to a broader audience. The company’s unique approach involves cultivating meat from non-modified cells without fetal bovine.

Seafood is getting a food-tech makeover, too. Steakholder Foods just expanded its 3D-printing capabilities with the world’s first plant-based, 3D-printed shrimp. These shrimp are designed to mimic the texture and flavor of conventional shrimps and were precision-printed on Steakholder Foods’ proprietary printer using shrimp-flavored ink. This development comes on the heels of Steakholder unveiling its 3D-printed plant-based eel. 

“By unveiling a second new species of plant-based, 3D-printed seafood this month, we expect to position Steakholder Foods to sell and deliver its first DropJet printer in 2024, offering partners and customers a unique opportunity to benefit from the expanding global seafood market, while making the right kind of impact on the environment,” Arik Kaufman, CEO of Steakholder Foods, said in a statement. 

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Another food-tech startup, Forsea Foods, is also working to replicate traditional Japanese freshwater eel using cell-cultured technology. This month, the startup unveiled its prototype of unagi, offering a similar tender texture and richly savory flavor as traditional wild eel.

Forsea collaborated with executive chef Katsumi Kusumoto of Toyoko’s SAIDO restaurant to create popular Japanese dishes like unagi kabayaki and unagi nigiri. Forsea’s approach involves using organoid technology to create 3D microtissues composed of fat and muscle, providing a cost-effective and sustainable alternative to traditional eel farming. The startup plans to launch its product commercially in 2025.

Vegan food news

Disney parks have been working on expanding their plant-based options for several years. This year, the brand is stepping into new ways to embrace plant-based with a new partnership with Franklin Farms, a US-based producer of plant-based meals and burgers. 

The collaboration puts Mickey Mouse-branded packaging on Franklin Farms’ range of plant-based products, including Classic Veggie Burger, Barbeque Veggie Burger, Cuban Style Black Bean and Plantain Balls, Moroccan Style Falafel Balls, and Teriyaki and Lemon Pepper Tofu Bites—all of which feature the Disney Check symbol, signifying compliance with Disney’s Nutrition Guidelines. 

Targeting a diverse consumer base, these plant-based options are now available at retailers in the Northeastern US, such as Acme, Morton Williams, and Star.

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If you haven’t heard yet, Oatly’s oat milk frozen desserts are officially available at Carvel, a well-known ice cream shop renowned for its soft serve and character cakes. This collaboration brings Oatly’s innovative vegan desserts to nearly 300 Carvel locations spanning across 18 states in the United States.

Some of the delectable menu items now available at participating Carvel shops include Oatly Strawberry Soft Serve, Oatly Cookies & Cream Scooped, Oatly Chocolate Peanut Butter Scooped, Flying Saucer Sandwiches made with Oatly, and Frozen Dessert Cakes featuring Oatly. 

“We are thrilled to bring Oatly products to Carvel,” Jim Salerno, Chief Brand Officer at Carvel, said in a statement. “As The Original Soft Serve, we want to ensure guests enjoy the classic flavors and nostalgia of Carvel while we continue to innovate and expand to new guests.” 

In addition, select Carvel locations will offer tempting options such as Oatly Chocolate, Mint, and Cold Brew Soft Serve.

“Oatly is the latest way we are breaking through to bring our guests a new offering we know there is a lot of excitement behind,” Salerno said. 

The partnership between Oatly and Carvel comes after the ice cream company released an oat milk-based version of its popular ice cream cakes in 2022. 

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Our favorite accidentally vegan cookies are getting galactic this winter with the launch of special edition Space Dunk Oreos which come stuffed with two layers of pink and blue, gelatin-free marshmallow flavored crème and popping candy for extra fun. The shapes on these Oreo cookies speak to the space theme with rockets, shooting stars, astronauts, and more. 

“These space-inspired Oreo cookies will make a great addition to your space-themed parties, space birthday celebrations, as stellar sweet treats during movie night or for simply enjoying as home or office snacks,” the company describes the cookie. 

Need something to dunk your space Oreos into? There’s a new vegan milk for that from Pecana. The Texas-based company just introduced PecanMilk, a new nut milk created by third-generation pecan farmer Kortney Chase. 

“Having grown up harvesting pecans, homemade pecan milk is a nostalgic beverage for me and my family,” Chase said in a statement.

“The quality and taste are incredibly important to me, which is why we spent years creating the perfect, scalable formulation that uses only whole ingredients and  doesn’t sacrifice flavor,” Chase said. 

Available in flavors such as Unsweetened and Vanilla, you can find PecanMilk on the company website and Amazon.

Vegan restaurant news

If you find yourself craving a hot dog in Boston this winter, local eatery Saus—known for its scratch-made fries, sauces, and comfort foods—teamed up with Better Balance to introduce the Better Dog, one of Better Balance’s newest products, to Saus’ menu offerings. 

The Better Dog is a classic hot dog alternative that has received acclaim since its launch in Spain, becoming the country’s top-selling product in the hot dog and sausage category in just five months. Saus now stands among the first restaurants in both Boston and the Northeastern region to offer the Better Dog. The chain also incorporates other Better Balance products, such as Better Shreds and Better Sour Cream.

“Once we tasted the Better Dog, we knew we had found a winner,” Tanya Walker, Co-Owner of Saus, said in a statement. “It’s a product that really satisfies the craving for a classic hot dog, and it holds up to all the toppings we throw on it.”

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“And don’t even get us started on the Better Shreds, which we used to create a vegan, crab cake burger—truly delicious and versatile products,” Walker said. 

In addition to Saus, Better Balance just partnered with Chunk Foods—makers of vegan steaks that have been hitting menus across the country. For this partnership, Better Balance and Chunk will offer co-branded, whole-cut vegan meat products to the foodservice sector in Mexico. 

“It’s an honor to embark on this exciting journey with Better Balance, known for its commitment to delivering high-quality products,” Amos Golan, Founder and CEO of Chunk Foods, said in a statement.

“Together with Better Balance, we are elevating the plant-based category with innovative, delicious products that cater to the vibrant tastes and lifestyles of Mexico,” Golan said. 

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It feels like January just came and went but February brings with it a few exciting holidays, including Mardi Gras. The best way to celebrate? We’re thinking a vegan king cake from Cinnaholic might be in order. 

While Cinnaholic is known for its customizable vegan cinnamon rolls, this time of year inspired the company to create the Mardi Gras classic, which serves eight to 10 people. Of course, it comes with a hidden baby and whoever finds it, will be crowned vegan king for a day.

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