Who is Formo?
Formo (formerly known as Legendairy Foods) is a cellular agriculture company producing animal-free dairy products using precision fermentation. Founded by Dr. Britta Winterberg and Raffael Wohlgensinger in 2019, we’re on an audacious mission: to bring the future of food to life through science, cheese and conversation. What unites our team is the love for cheese and the planet. It is our vision to create a more sustainable and ethical food system, where change is not initiated through consumer sacrifice, but through hedonistic products.
What does Formo mean?
Literally translating from Latin, Formo means ‘I mold, I form’. But cheese speaks a universal language. To us, Formo also means to make cheese into something that's fit for the 21st century. Our goal is to preserve and nurture food traditions while cutting down the impacts of industrialized animal agriculture. We are the new generation of European cheesemakers. And we’re here to form the future of dairy.
Why do we have to rethink the current food system?
Our current food system is causing colossal problems. From climate change to food security and public health, the issues are rife, and something’s gotta give. 1. Over 4% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions come from dairy cattle alone. That’s as much as shipping and aviation combined. Scary stuff. 2. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization predicts there’ll be a 50-100% in increase in demand for animal protein by 2050. If we source this through traditional methods, we will continue causing serious environmental damage and resource scarcity. 3. Animal agriculture is the number one source of zoonotic disease outbreaks, according to the UN. It’s also a key contributor to antibiotic resistance. We need a safer, more sustainable, and more efficient way of producing food in order to prevent future panemic outbreaks. 4. Almost 90% of the world’s animal species will lose their habitat to agriculture by 2050 if we continue on a current path. Changing the food system proactively will help saving biodiversity substantially. 5. Finally, the life span of a dairy cow shortens from 25 to about five years when held in captivity and being exploited for animal agriculture. It's time to stop animal cruelty and start feeding the world in a way that is ethical and sustainable.
How can animal-free dairy be a solution to this problem?
Why domesticate methane-emitting cattle when you can cultivate tiny, emission-free microbes? Our technology has the potential to eliminate nasty cow gasses from dairy production and reduce its GHG emissions by 91%-97%. And that’s not all. Precision fermentation only needs a fraction of land compared to traditional dairy production. This reduces water consumption by 96%-99% and uses up to 60% less energy than doing it the conventional way. We think that’s pretty good going.
What is precision fermentation?
Precision fermentation uses microorganisms (think yeast, fungi, or algae) to produce complex, organic molecules like proteins or fat, without the exploitation of animals. It’s a safe and well-established process that’s been used for over 50 years in the medical and food industries. Using precision fermentation, we were able to identify the genes that are responsible for producing milk proteins. By programming our microorganisms with this genetic information and feeding them with nutrients such as carbohydrates and nitrogen they can produce milk proteins identical to those found in cow's milk.
How do you make animal-free cheese?
Once our little power-microbes have produced enough protein it is being filtered, extracted and dried. In the following steps, the protein is combined with plant-based fats, carbohydrates, and salt. Then we use traditional cheese-making processes to create a range of delicious, real cheeses. Et voilà – camembert without the cow.
What does it taste like?
Like cheese! Our animal-free protein is identical to conventional dairy proteins and thus creates the identical experience. So our product isn’t like cheese – it is cheese! Formo fromage can be stretchy, melty, gooey, blue... You name it, we form it.
Will consumers be on board?
We’ve done the research (peer-reviewed, of course). We found that consumers across a range of age groups and dietary preferences were loving the idea of cultivated dairy. We surveyed over 5,000 people from 5 different countries, and more than 70% of them said they’d be up for buying products like ours. That said, empowering consumer choice has always been at the heart of our work. Formo aims to satisfy consumers’ hunger for more sustainable choices without letting their taste buds down.
Is it suitable for vegans?
People choose to follow a vegan lifestyle for a variety of reasons, including health factors and ethical views. For those choosing to avoid products that require the exploitation of animals, our cheese is 100% animal-free. Besides avoiding animal cruelty, our products don’t have any trace of lactose, hormones, or antibiotics in them. However, because our proteins are molecularly identical to milk proteins from cows, our cheese does contain milk allergens.
When can I buy Formo fromage?
We know cheese lovers are salivating already but you’ll have to curb your cravings a little bit longer. Our aim is to bring our first products on the shelves by 2023. However, we’re planning our first official product demonstration in collaboration with plant-based Michelin-starred chef Ricky Saward in 2022 – not long to wait!
Does your cheese contain GMOs?
Once our microorganisms have produced enough protein to be harvested they are filtered out entirely. Genetic engineering therefore is an essential part of our process. However, there are no GMOs or any other genetic material in our final product.
What will industrial production look like?
Imagine a large beer brewery, but for cheese. We’re currently running pilot-scale fermentation tanks but once we industrialize the process, we’ll use stainless steel tanks of 50,000 liters or more to grow and multiply our milk proteins in a secure and controlled environment. We’ll use these to produce the basic curd for our cheeses, which can then be packaged straight away as fresh cheese or ripened to allow those lovely mature flavors to develop. Our mouths are watering already!
What's next for Formo?
We’ve got big plans. Over the next few months, we’re going to be doing everything we can to get regulatory approval ASAP, make sure our products are affordable with mass appeal and interact with our future customers to get them excited about our amazing animal-free cheeses. Our long-term target is to replace 10% of dairy products in Europe by 2030. Watch this space :-)