Kingdom Supercultures CEO: Microbial biobank could slash food price inflation worldwide
28 Mar 2022 --- US-based biotech start-up Kingdom Supercultures says it is readying the launch of a library of natural microbial ingredients, making plant-based dairy products taste “practically indistinguishable” from animal-based counterparts.
The start-up’s founders also say their methods could undercut rising inflation rates and global ingredient shortages plaguing the F&B industry. This year, some of industry’s biggest players will launch products using the “supercultures,” and consumers will have their first taste.
FoodIngredientsFirst speaks to Kendall Dabaghi, co-founder and CEO of Kingdom Supercultures, about how he envisions the technology creating a revolution for the food industry.
“What we’re interested in is intentionally using the ‘microbial’ communities that our ancestors randomly stumbled upon thousands of years ago. The challenge is that the cultures used to turn seeds and nuts into milk and cheese don’t work the same way – every combination needs unique combinations of microbes to get the taste right.”
“Unlike the dairy industry, where everyone is fermenting the same cultures, or like the plant-based dairy market as it is now, where everyone is fermenting different cultures, in all of these cases we need new microbial communities.”
The microbial library
Dabaghi says that Kingdom Supercultures is in the process of building a microbial library that will provide common knowledge of how to produce plant-based products from different ingredients effectively.
“The large ingredient companies of the 20th century, like Dow or DuPont, have large libraries of artificial chemicals, listed very well, and they take these chemicals, and they put them together in different combinations and proportions.”
“We are excited about the opportunity of doing the same thing but with natural microbial strains instead of artificial chemicals. Then we can think about using different cultures to make new types of food.”
Last year, Dabaghi and his fellow co-founder Ravi Sheth raised US$25 million in series A funding led by Shine Capital.
Consulting with supercultures
Currently, Kingdom Superculturs is tailoring methods for different companies to produce better plant-based products, says Dabaghi. “We can’t discuss what companies or products, because we are under confidentiality agreements, but companies come to us and say ‘this is the product we want to create, this is our method and so on.’”
“For the past 100 years, everybody basically just sold the same cultures to everybody. But what we can do now is leverage this growing biobank that we have built, which is – to our knowledge – the most diverse selection of microbes in existence, then deliver customized superculture ingredients to each of these customers depending on what they’re trying to make.”
Some of the companies they are working with are the biggest corporations on earth, as well as upcoming start-ups, he says.
Food price inflation
Dabaghi also says this biobank of supercultures could help reduce the soaring cost of inflation hitting the F&B industry globally. COVID-19, weather disruptions, cyber attacks, and the Ukraine war are causing severe supply disruptions and economic pressure for players worldwide.
“One example where we can fight the rising food price inflation is if we look at plant-based cheese right now, most players are taking very complex routes to mimic the taste of real cheese, using dozens of texturizers and chemicals, flavors and so on. But the method of creating real cheese is very simple. It’s just milk and cultures.”
“Our hope is that we can take any nut or seed, for example, and use designed cultures specifically for that product that will make it taste like traditional cheese. This is good as it replaces the enormous cost of goods lists that a lot of companies are currently relying on.”
This cost of production for plant-based foods, which also has a far lower cost on the environment, could be slashed in this way, asserts Dabaghi.
“This is the goal of our work. We can deliver something that will genuinely help the transition to plant-based diets, where these current chemically composed products just don’t cut it in terms of taste.”
By Louis Gore-Langton
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