A university professor is working on creating a plant-based milk that could ‘radically improve’ vegan cheese in flavor and nutritional value.
Marité Cárdenas, a professor at Biofilms Research Center for Biointerfaces, is spearheading the project.
In a statement sent to PBN, she said: “There are a lot of dairy products, which of course are produced from milk, and milk is a difficult material to mimic.
“So the idea is to work out how to mimic it so we can produce dairy products that are plant-based.
“There is a growing concern in the world, so we need to find ways to be more sustainable. Cheese is a very important food and if you want to eat the vegan cheese currently available in the supermarkets, you might be disappointed.
“The current vegan options are not really mimicking dairy cheese production, they are doing something completely different and that is because there is a great technological limitation.”
Keep up to date with the latest vegan news…
Milk is made up of proteins such as caseins and fats that are formed in a ‘special structure’. When cheese is made, bacteria or enzymes react with the proteins in such a way that curd is formed. It is this curd that forms the basis of cheese.
“This process is difficult to mimic if you do not have these specific proteins, which only exist in animals,” Cárdenas explains.
“A lot of companies are trying to produce them recombinantly using yeast, for example. This is something which is done by a molecular or synthetic biologist.”
Moreover, Cárdenas says she aims to use her knowledge as a physical chemist to formulate milk from plant-based proteins.
“If we’re going to make it from scratch, we don’t need to do it the way nature does,” she adds. “Nature designed milk because it needed the milk, it didn’t need cheese! We can make it the perfect milk for cheese making.
“We can add things in the milk which are good for the body, such as vitamins and minerals which are lacking in a vegan diet, and formulate them in such a way that they will remain in the cheese.”
Which plant milk are you? Classic soy? Trendy oat? Quirky coconut? Take Switch4Goods’ quiz here to find out.