Israeli firm turns to yeast to revolutionize the fake meat market

“Very few people are talking about the biological benefits of the protein..." NextFerm founder Boaz Noy says.

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September 9, 2019 00:55
3 minute read.
Israeli firm turns to yeast to revolutionize the fake meat market

NextFerm Senior VP R&D Tzafra Cohen (L), CFO Yossi Ohana (C) and CEO Boaz Noy (R). (photo credit: RAMI ZARNEGAR)

Driven by concerns over climate change and growing interest in healthier sources of protein, plant-derived meat substitutes are soaring in popularity.

In recent months, pea protein-based faux meat producer Beyond Meat has made headlines courtesy of its meteoric rise on the NASDAQ stock market. Rival company Impossible Foods, the developer of soy protein-based substitutes, is reportedly considering going public too.

Now seeking to ride the plant-based wave of public interest is NextFerm, an industrial company headquartered in Yokne’am Illit that specializes in fermentation-derived nutrients.

Aspiring to lead the world of nutrition through a combination of fermentation experience and science, NextFerm aims to shake up the fake meat market with proteins isolated from optimized strains of non-GMO yeast.

Founded in 2013 by former executives at specialty nutrition company Enzymotec, NextFerm has already used its novel fermentation techniques to produce yeast with increased resistance to freeze-thaw cycles, antioxidant dietary supplements and a new yeast strain for the production of ethanol from corn.

NextFerm founders Boaz Noy and Tzafra Cohen, both passionate about nutrition, are now targeting the plant-based protein market.

“We understood that everyone is working on the textures of meat substitutes, trying to make it more similar to beef and share the same taste,” said Noy, chief executive of the company. “Very few people are talking about the biological benefits of the protein and what it aims to do: to build muscles and prevent muscle degeneration among the aging population.”

While other vegan proteins are lacking sufficient amounts of leucines, Noy says, NextFerm is developing novel yeast-derived proteins that are rich in the essential amino acid, and could even offer higher levels of leucine than whey protein.

Noy is cautiously optimistic that leucine levels could even exceed those in animal-derived sources.

“All of the indications are that the market for vegan protein will grow, and there are already successful stories, like Beyond Meat,” said Cohen, senior vice president R&D and business development at NextFerm.

“They are approaching the taste and the structure, but our focus is on the nutritional value. Protein comprises amino acids, some are essential that our body can produce. Out of these essentials, leucine is specifically related to muscle mass,” she said.

Responding to concerns voiced over the consumption of too many soy-based products, Cohen emphasized that the yeast-derived protein isolate has no hormones and no allergens.

Planning to soon commence clinical trials, the company aims to initially market its proteins to early adopters in the sports nutrition sector, but a primary target is the adult and elderly population, which suffers from increasing muscle mass deterioration.

“We are willing to and will invest in clinical trials because we understand that it is a win-win situation,” said Cohen. “We will have more data and can answer the questions posed by the consumers.”

For Noy, an accountant by training, NextFerm is entering a perfect economic storm with the production of its novel protein. He also knows that in order to make a significant contribution to the world’s protein needs, it will be necessary to combine forces with the largest food producers and distributors. The company is currently in negotiations with potential partners in the US.

“More and more millennials are trying every week to eat vegetarian replacements for meat,” said Noy. “This is happening from a sustainability and moral point of view. The world ‘going vegan’ is not that everybody is going to stop eating meat, but that people will split their proteins and foods into different sources.”


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