Can Babybel’s New Postbiotic Protein Make the Best-Tasting Vegan Cheese?

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The French company Bel Group is known worldwide for its popular cheese brands such as Boursin, The Laughing Cow and Babybel and until recently the family business has been making its dairy products in more or less the same way for about 150 years. In the modern era – as the climate crisis rages on, consumers seek animal-free products and the human population continues to grow – Bel Group is exploring several options to help improve its entire product range.

As a major step in driving this innovation, Bel recently announced a strategic partnership with Delaware-based Superbrewed Food, a company that uses fermentation to create high-quality postbiotic proteins. The company extracts microflora from the gut microbiome that undergoes an anaerobic (without the presence of oxygen) fermentation process to create this animal-free protein, which has no known allergens and has nutritional value while using far fewer resources than traditional dairy production.

Bel Group Research and Application Director, Anne Pitkowski, is a protein specialist and has worked as a nutrition scientist for 18 years. She currently leads innovation in this area at Bel Group and is working on solving various challenges to support Bel’s mission to bring healthier and more sustainable cheeses to consumers. “The challenge is so important that we really need to screen everything out there on the market,” Pitowski told VegNews. “There are so many new technologies emerging today and we are very excited to evaluate them all.”

When it comes to Superbrewed’s protein, Pitkowski sees huge potential in how it can be used to transform the brand’s portfolio across the board, in both dairy and non-dairy applications. “Alternative proteins are really essential because it’s a plus for us to provide really good nutrition and accessibility and with an approach that’s really sustainable,” Pitkowski said. “In my position, we are really looking for all these kinds of solutions to fulfill our missions at Bel. This is a fantastic ingredient to prepare the solutions of tomorrow.”

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Super brewed food

A postbiotic protein with the potential to transform dairy

In addition to plant-based and cell-based protein, microbial fermentation is emerging as an important pillar in alternative protein production that is much less resource-intensive than animal husbandry. Companies in this space source microbes from several places, including geothermal geysers in Yellowstone National Park – where the building blocks of Nature’s Fynd, another company in this space, were found.

And Superbrewed’s postbiotic protein also has a unique source. CEO and founder Bryan Tracy, PhD – an expert in genetic engineering and bacterial fermentation – is deeply interested in the function of the gut microbiome in transforming plant material into proteins. This process occurs in herbivorous animals after each meal. “Animals are poor intermediaries to convert plant ingredients into what we believe to be a more nutritious array of foods,” Tracy told VegNews about traditional animal husbandry. “We can be smarter.”

Although Superbrewed’s main microbe is present in the human microbiome, it is more abundant in herbivorous animals, and the company isolated and extracted its native microbes from the litter (or feces) of a healthy poultry stock that was free of antibiotics. No birds were harmed in this process and the microflora now self-propagates in Superbrewed’s fermenters with no animal input, enabling it to create a highly functional and nutritious vegan protein with enormous potential.

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Super brewed food

“Most of the food we live on isn’t the food we eat, it’s what that food we eat converts into our microbiomes. And what it converts it into is the postbiotics we consume,” said Tracy. “We grow an organism with a gut microbiome in a controlled system and we don’t fake it. We keep it in its most normal, full-fledged form.”

Tracy has been interested in creating more equitable foods and systems all her life, explaining that making protein this way — which relies on the same fermentation process as making beer, kimchi and yogurt — is more affordable and versatile than traditional ones. protein production. “What better place to find a protein that nourishes food than in a digestive microbiome, because we eat them anyway,” Tracy said. “These have played an evolutionary role in the success of humans and animals for millions of years.”

With Superbrewed, Tracy looks beyond the (not so simple) task of replacing animal proteins. Instead, he wants to offer consumers better choice in all aspects, including nutrition, functionality and sustainability. “If you want a bigger population in this space to change, you can’t just give them a replacement that’s the same. Give them something better,” he said. “The iPhone didn’t replace the flip phone because it flipped better. more features and more functionality.”

It is supplied to customers as a white, shelf-stable powder. Superbrewed Protein’s unique properties are a whopping 85 percent protein content, and the remaining 15 percent is packed with essential amino acids, vitamins, and minerals. “We have the most vitamin B12 of any known protein that I know of,” Tracy said, with a two-tablespoon serving of Superbrewed’s protein, which equates to the recommended daily intake of B12. “The vegan consumer deserves better.”

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Vegan cheeses from Babybel, Boursin and The Laughing Cow

Bel Group is releasing plant-based versions of all of its popular cheeses, including Boursin, Babybel and The Laughing Cow. Before Boursin, Bel Group teamed up with US brand Follow Your Heart to develop its vegan version that launched in 2020 in stores including Trader Joe’s.

Last year, the French company released its Plant-Based Babybel cheeses, first in Europe and then in the United States, wrapping it in green wax, just like its classic version, but easier to identify as plant-based. Currently, Bel Brands is working on releasing a vegan version of The Laughing Cow – the pièce de résistance snack wedges – sometime in 2023 and has already experimented with an oat milk base.

Bel Group’s new strategic partnership with Superbrewed provides additional opportunities for its plant-based portfolio, which includes its own vegan cheese brand Nurishh. Here, Bel Group sees great potential in increasing the nutritional profile of its vegan cheeses with the use of Superbrewed’s protein, a 30-gram serving of which meets U.S. Food and Drug Administration requirements to be a “good source” of protein. five B vitamins, including a full day’s supply of B12, and a “good source” of six essential minerals, such as iron, phosphorus and magnesium.

Furthermore, since Superbrewed’s protein is neutral in taste, it dissolves any unwanted flavors that plant-based ingredients, such as pea protein, can impart. The ingredient also acts as a great emulsifier, which is important in cheese applications as they are made of mostly water and fat. “It also provides creaminess and a smooth mouthfeel,” confirms Pitkowski of the protein’s additional functional elements, explaining that this innovation has the potential to transform the texture of vegan cheese to be much more dairy-like.

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Ultimately, Bel Group sees Superbrewed’s protein as a versatile ingredient that can bring benefits to its product portfolio. Superbrewed will be ready to ship its innovative protein to Bel Group in the first half of 2023, after which Bel Group can explore its use in developing new and perfecting existing cheeses on a larger scale.

“We’re really at the beginning of this story,” Pitkowski said. “Innovation and renovation is continuous at Bel, so as soon as we can improve the composition, we will improve our mini Babyel and the cheese that will come. And it can also be integrated into Nurishh.”

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