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Most consumers willing to try animal-free cheeses, survey finds

More than two-thirds of people in a recent survey would be willing to try cheese made from real milk proteins produced by microorganisms instead of animals, researchers say. Photo by AlexKlen/Pixabay
More than two-thirds of people in a recent survey would be willing to try cheese made from real milk proteins produced by microorganisms instead of animals, researchers say. Photo by AlexKlen/Pixabay

June 24 (UPI) -- Most consumers are willing to at least try animal-free dairy products made using a process called precision fermentation, according to a survey published Thursday by the journal Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems.

Nearly 80% of adult consumers in the United States, Brazil, Britain, Germany and India indicated they are are willing to try precision-fermentation-derived dairy cheese, the data showed.

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In addition, more than 70% said they were willing to pay for these products, with flexitarians -- those who eat mostly plant-based foods along with some animal-based options -- showing the most enthusiasm for them, the researchers said.

"Just as we have seen plant-based milk taking an increasing share of the milk market in recent years, we now see that consumers are ready for a new kind of animal-free dairy cheese product," researcher Christopher Bryant said in a press release.

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"Seeing the growing consumer groups of flexitarians and young people driving adoption of animal-free cheese is a big indicator that these products will appeal to consumers far beyond the niche markets of current vegan cheese," said Bryant, a social scientist at the University of Bath in England.

Precision fermentation is a process that allows specific proteins to be produced via microorganisms.

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By inserting a copied stretch of cow DNA, microorganisms produce milk proteins, a process that is more efficient than using animals to make proteins and avoids the negative side effects of industrial animal agriculture, which accounts for 18% of all greenhouse gas emissions.

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Animal-free dairy causes at least 80% less greenhouse gas emissions than conventional dairy production, according to the researchers.

The survey was conducted by Bryant and his colleagues, as well as the precision-fermentation company Formo, and it included more than 5,054 consumers from the five countries.

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Across all countries and age groups, 79% of consumers said they are willing to try dairy cheese produced using precision fermentation and 71% indicated they are willing to pay for these products.

"Most cheese lovers think current vegan cheeses are nowhere near the flavor or functionality level that meets their cheese needs," Formo researcher Oscar Zollman Thomas said in a statement.

"Precision fermentation is allowing us to fundamentally change that and make real cheese without animals involved," he said.

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