Many people are choosing to avoid eating cheese and other dairy products. This is often due to allergies and intolerances, sustainability concerns or animal welfare considerations. Some people feel very strongly about avoiding animal products, whereas other people would like to just sometimes have the option of forgoing dairy. At FÆRM, we want to make deliciousness available to them all.
The status quo for cheese alternatives on the market right now, is to use coconut oil, starch and stabilizers to easily get a firm texture, and then add colors and flavorings to get some of the most common tastes known from dairy products. When we at FÆRM looked at this process, we thought ‘where is the love in that?’ - Cheese is a long, gentle process that allows the proteins to work together to go from a liquid milk, to a nice firm blob that can do all the magic tricks we know and love from cheese. And centuries of discoveries have found how the sugars in milk can be cultured to develop complex flavors and experiences. We want to give that experience to everyone, just without the dairy.
Cashew products can be delicious, and really fun to work with! But, there were two major reasons why we have chosen legumes as our base: Firstly, there are many sustainability concerns regarding cashews. While it is still more gentle to our environment than cows, it is not up to the standard that we here at FÆRM aim for. Furthermore, sustainability to us is much more than just climate and environment, and the ethics of the treatment of cashew pickers concerned us. Secondly, when we take a close look at what makes a cheese, we see that the proteins working together, in a beautiful knitwork, is what makes it so unique. While firm products can be made from nuts, it is more so a paste of bits of nuts, rather than a new structure between the proteins. To achieve a new structure of the proteins, we need big, complex proteins, like those we see in legumes, and enzymes to help them meet each other.
Legumes are the perfect base for the FÆRM products. The proteins are big and complex, and able to form new interactions with each other when treated with enzymes. Furthermore, they are a very sustainable crop. The most commercially available legume with a high enough protein content, and available in a wide variety of qualities, has been soy. While we are broadening out to include other legumes, such as fava beans, chickpeas, lentils, yellow peas, and others to meet the demand for soy free products, we are currently doing some of our testing on organic, European soy.
No. Precision fermentation is when microorganisms are changed to produce specific things, such as protein. The idea is that you can potentially make copies of for instance casein, the cheese proteins. But here at FÆRM, we know that there already are loads of great proteins out in the world, just waiting to go on their cheesy adventures! We don’t need to re-invent cow-proteins, to make deliciousness.