Science, at its most basic, brings forth new understanding and value. Challenging, difficult, exciting and rewarding: it’s perhaps one of the most powerful tools we have at our disposal to continually improve society—by framing up big problems, and working to discover solutions.
So what’s the problem we’re turning our lens to? And where’s the gap in knowledge we’re yearning to fill?
It’s a dairy industry which is currently on an unsustainable track, as well as a wider food system with similar issues. The problem is being unfairly placed on the shoulders of cheese-lovers everywhere, without any clear resolution—and if we want to shape real change, we need to focus on providing real solutions for everyone.
If we want to shape real change, we need to focus on providing real solutions for everyone.
For many people, there is a disconnect between science and food. Traditional dairy foods are easy to understand, and the journey from farm to plate is relatable. But what if you remove animals (and their carbon emissions, land use, and water use) from that story?
I grew up on a farm, and that’s how I first got involved in food and dairy science. Seeing plant-based alternatives to milk at the beginning of my career showed me some of the limitations of this approach early on, and I realised that a different route was needed to fill the gap that’s left when we remove animals from the equation. From taste to nutrition, these novel products—especially for those who are used to consuming animal products—could not serve as a substitute.
We use science as a vehicle to investigate and develop new processes which could deliver more efficient, more sustainable and cleaner products for people’s health and wellbeing. This could mean identifying a new way to stabilise and nurture yeast cells to create casein instead of CO2, or discovering a new process to arrange amino acids.
At Formo, it can be hard to tell where the science ends and where the culinary side begins...
At Formo, it can be hard to tell where the science ends and where the culinary side begins—that attitude runs right through the business. Our co-founder, Raffa, always talks about Swiss fondue and how the smell instantly transports him home to childhood moments around the fire with family and friends. Food is essential for all of us, it’s our everyday companion. We all build strong memories around what we eat, how we make it— celebration, pleasure, indulging ourselves, or the happiness of making a meal with others. For us it’s also our work, that’s why it’s so easy to feel passionate about what we do.
Research is based on the same ethical values that apply in everyday life, including honesty, objectivity, openness, trustworthiness and respect for others.
Trust is the foundation of scientific research. Scientists trust in the results generated by others and the society trusts that the results of research reflect an honest attempt to describe the world accurately and without bias. Science is a cumulative enterprise in which new research builds on previous results— which is especially important for a small company like us.
We just started a big project with three universities, and I’m really excited to have all those experts on board. And not just for the shared expertise, but for the sense of recognition that comes with their willingness to work with us and embrace our direction.
It might sound futuristic, but that future represents a healthier, happier, and kinder world for all.
Conversation is how we get people energised about collaboration. By being clear and open with why we’re doing what we are, and how, we can get other people as excited as we are. But it’s a dialogue, and we want people to challenge us before they trust us—it’s our role to move forward the discussion around science in food.
Science has always played an important role in making exciting visions of the future tangible, and we’re energised by sharing our view on the next evolution of food. First we had milk, a ready-made mixture with many ingredients which you have to take in its entirety. But our process means we can break things down to the basic building blocks (the single milk proteins), enabling us to develop completely new solutions. Our never-ending cycle of curiosity keeps challenging us to find new ways of leading major change in the food system, through pioneering new processes and products.
From allergen-free products for one person, to personalised amino acid profiles for another, this kind of customisation is the next step in food production. It might sound futuristic, but that future represents a healthier, happier, and kinder world for all.
It’s an exciting journey ahead of us, and by solving big problems through honest, creative, and direct investigation, we’re committed to bringing the future of food to life.
Dr. Sandra Wilde is Head of Food Science at Formo (formerly Legendairy Foods) and this article is one part of a series exploring the future of dairy through the lens of Formo's DNA.