Bel Group R&D partner Standing Ovation gets funding boost to propel its alt protein innovation

The start-up has developed a patented process for producing non-animal caseins, and Babybel maker the Bel Group has an active partnership with the Paris firm to produce superior cheese alternatives.

Casein, a protein that’s a key component of milk, gives cheese its distinct stretch and melt properties and contributes to the dairy staple’s protein content. But when produced through precision fermentation – a process in which organisms such as yeasts are genetically-programmed to create specific ingredients – casein is hoped to play a key role in the development of dairy alternatives, helping producers to achieve near-equivalent functional and nutritional properties in cheese analogs.

In 2022, Standing Ovation and Bel Group announced a partnership​ that would aid the Babybel maker’s quest of improving its portfolio of plant-based and non-animal cheese and dairy alternatives, with a particular focus on boosting protein content. In turn, Standing Ovation received financial backing from Bel, who also acquired an equity stake in the start-up. The first products resulting from the tie-up are hoped to arrive in 2024, first in the US where regulations allow for the marketing of precision fermentation-derived dairy, and eventually, in Europe depending on favorable regulatory developments.

In addition to the circa €12m funding secured in 2022, Standing Ovation is set to add a total of €3m additional funding to industrialize the production of non-dairy casein. The company has been chosen to receive €2m (of which €1.2m in the form of a grant) from a French government program designed to support agri-food resilience and reward technological innovation, itself part of the state’s €54bn France 2030 investment plan aiming to decarbonize and future-proof key sectors of the economy. The funding will support the start-up’s project over 20 months.