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Grocery Plant-Based Science Sweets

Can Ice Cream Made With Cow DNA Be 100% Vegan?

The plant-based and vegan industry has found some novel ways to create meat substitutes. Mostly, it’s been finding plant sources of some of the proteins and other molecules key to making meat, which is what companies like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat have done. 

An emerging company, however, is taking a more direct approach to creating these proteins. They’re making products like ice cream that use real milk protein and cow DNA, yet still claims them to be 100 percent vegan.

Photo courtesy of Perfect Day

I know that phrase is going to generate controversy. Yes, it’s the exact same protein you get from milk. Yes, it does utilize the genes from a cow to make the protein. However, it doesn’t use any animals, any DNA extracted from an animal, or animal products whatsoever. 

This vegan milk protein comes from Perfect Day, who specializes in what they would describe as “fermented vegan dairy” that’s 100% animal-free. 

“The cool thing is we’re doing it with fermentation, so not a single cow is involved in our process,” says Nicki Briggs, Perfect Day’s VP of Corporate Communications.

Instead, Perfect Day uses a fermentation process that’s been widely used by various companies over the years. Briggs compared it to how proteins like insulin or rennet are made today in a conversation with Foodbeast.

Photo courtesy of Perfect Day

Rennet, the curdling protein for cheese, is traditionally harvested from a calf’s stomach. Today, 90 percent of it is vegetarian, made by getting yeast to ferment sugars into the exact same protein. According to Briggs, Perfect Day uses that exact same process to make their vegan milk protein. The result is a powder that can be used to make ice cream, cheese, yogurt, and more. 

For milk, it contains two predominant types of protein: casein and whey. The protein that Perfect Day is making, beta-lactoglobulin (BLG), is one of the primary components of whey protein. “We found that beta-lactoglobulin is the most nutritious and the most functional of all of the proteins in milk,” Briggs explained, indicating that BLG was the key one needed to create a functional alternative to getting milk from cows.

To get the yeast, called trichoderma, to make the milk protein, Perfect Day downloaded part of the genetic makeup of a cow into the yeast. Segments of DNA coding in any creature are used by cells to make different key components, including proteins. Adding that code into a yeast cell known for producing large quantities of protein was the key to making Perfect Day’s product. 

One could call this “genetic engineering,” but it doesn’t use a technique like CRISPR, which splices in genes from another creature’s cells. Instead, Perfect Day turned to a virtual source of DNA: Google. 

“We were able to, as silly as it sounds, Google it and find the sequence online,” Briggs explained.  “We were able to use this sequence to influence our microflora.”

The microflora can then grow the protein en masse in giant fermentation tanks. That is then turned into the powder that can be added to an ice cream mix or other vegan dairy products to give it a structure akin to real dairy.

Right now, there’s only two brands in markets that use this novel animal-free whey: Smitten, who teamed up with Perfect Day to make limited batches of “N’ice cream,” and Brave Robot, who heavily advertises the protein they use in their pints of frozen dessert. 

Brave Robot was locally available for me, so I secured some pints to sample and analyze. They use a blend of plant oils to replace the fat you would normally get in milk, as well as sunflower lecithin (a substitute for soy) to emulsify everything together. 

The result is an extremely creamy ice cream that, at serving temperature, is pretty spot on to the original. I would say it does freeze a little bit harder than regular ice cream, but is way closer than any other vegan substitute I’ve tried.

Because this ice cream alternative does use real milk protein, it’s not recommended for those with allergies to milk. Allergies are triggered by proteins, and while a different protein (called alpha-s1 casein) is a more common allergen trigger in milk, beta-lactoglobulin can still cause issues for those sensitive to milk. 

This, as well as the fact that it is a real protein, are some of the larger concerns some may have in calling what Perfect Day creates “vegan.” Yes, it doesn’t use any animals, but the structure of what’s inside it and real milk are identical. 

Briggs understands that, saying “We want the word vegan to be a helpful navigation tool to find products not named from animals, but don’t want to be misleading.” While she believes that Perfect Day’s product fits under the technical term for vegan, there’s a different phrase she would use as well.

“We see animal-free as the master name for this,” she said. As for terms like lab-grown, describing Perfect Day’s protein as that would be “inaccurate,” as it’s “less sci-fi than it seems.”

While Perfect Day is using a technology that’s not new, they are applying it in a new way by recreating an “animal-free” milk protein that can be used to craft ice creams nearly identical to the original.

Perfect Day does plan to create the entire lineup of milk proteins and other dairy products, but those will come down the line as the company continues to grow.

Categories
Alcohol Drinks Grocery What's New

AriZona Hard Seltzer Is Officially Launching In 2021

Photo courtesy of Heineken

You don’t have to mix your own spiked AriZonas anymore, as the gas station staple is jumping into the hard seltzer game.

AriZona has teamed up with Heineken to create their new Sunrise brand of boozy seltzers by using Hornell Brewing Company, an affiliated entity, to make this partnership happen.

Each can of the hard seltzer is made with “a splash of real fruit,” but it’s unclear if that means flavors, fruit juice or fruit puree. Heineken’s press release does go after “clear mango” type seltzers, though, suggesting that there will be a juice or puree inside.

AriZona also does make flavors like Mucho Mango using fruit purees and juices, suggesting that those could be the “splash of fruit” the press release talks about.

Mucho Mango will be one of the flavors of the Sunrise Hard Seltzer, as will Cherry Punch, Lemon, and Grapefruit. All of the flavors contain 100 calories and have 2-4 grams of carbohydrates per can. The ABV of each can is 4.6%, making it slightly less boozy than a can of White Claw.

All four flavors will be available nationwide starting in the first quarter of 2021. Folks will be able to buy individual cans, with 12-pack variety sets also available.

Whether these seltzers will be 99 cents, as the usual cans are, remains to be seen.

Categories
Animals Grocery

New California ‘Beef Directory’ Helps Customers Buy Directly From Ranchers

For those in California looking to support local beef ranchers, especially during the pandemic, farmers’ markets have often been a place to go. It’s a way to feel more connected to our food system, rather than just buying branded steak from the grocery store.

For those that want to take it a step further, or find a rancher in their area to buy meat from, California now has its own “Beef Directory” you can access to do just that.

The “Beef Directory” breaks California into three regions: Northern, Central, and Southern. You can then track ranches in the area, get their contact info, and see what they sell. Many ranches will sell individual cuts of steaks, but often times, you can also purchase a quarter or half share of a cow. A typical cow yields 639 pounds of meat, 38% of which is turned into ground beef, if that helps you calculate how much meat is in each offering.

Right now, over a dozen ranches are listed on the California Beef Directory, with listing spots available for any other ranchers that want to get on the list.

Buying from small-scale ranchers and local beef producers helps local food makers around you continue to thrive, especially during a challenging time like this pandemic. It also can be more sustainable for the planet, as smaller ranches often employ more sustainable methods of raising their livestock.

For those living in other parts of the country or world, local beef directories may exist in your region that provide contact information for ranches, info on what cuts of meat they sell, or both.

Using these beef directories makes finding local beef, whether it be for restaurant or at-home use, a lot easier, and gets the general public more connected to original food sources once again.

Categories
Food Policy Grocery Health Packaged Food Science Sweets

Berkeley Passes ‘Healthy Checkout’ Bill, Clearing Junk Food From Checkout Aisles

Photo: David Tonelson // Shutterstock

The checkout aisle of grocery stores isn’t home to just a cash register; there’s also a variety of candies, chips, and sweets you can pick up. This front of store promotion is often where kids of all ages can get their sugar cravings satisfied, but also helps push and market junk food products.

If you could change the products available in the checkout aisle to be less caloric and sugar-laden, it might have an effect in helping combat obesity. The city of Berkeley is willing to give that a shot, as they became the first city to pass a “healthy checkout” bill.

The new law, as reported by the San Jose Mercury News, applies to grocery stores larger than 2,500 square feet. It restricts products available at the checkout stands to those with no more than 5 grams of added sugar or less than 250 milligrams of sodium per serving.

Junk food itself isn’t banned in these stores, and could be found in the regular candy, chips, or snacks sections. This law just takes that prime product placement section and has stores give better-for-you options a shot in that area.

Policymakers hope that the new ordinance helps redefine what “treating yourself” means when picking up convenient snacks on the way out of the store. Replacing candy bars and the like with better-for-you snack bars, fruits, nuts, and more could help encourage healthier snacking habits.

Berkeley is known for establishing precedent for laws involving nutrition and sustainability that get passed elsewhere. Their 2014 soda tax, for example, has led to similar actions in other parts of the United States.

How this law will change snacking habits, and whether it catches on nationwide, will be seen when it goes into effect in March 2021. Enforcement via health inspections will begin in 2022.

Categories
Grocery Packaged Food Sweets

Reese’s Is Stuffing Their Peanut Butter Cups With PRETZELS

Photo courtesy of Reese’s

Earlier in September, news articles began to pop up letting people know that a Reese’s Potato Chip cup was coming soon.

This appears to have been part of a strategic “leak” by Reese’s, who let people know the wrong cup was coming. They are mixing sweet and salty together, but instead of chips, its pretzels.

Photo courtesy of Reese’s

The new variety adds pieces of crunchy, salty pretzels to the peanut butter, creating sweet with a blend of saltiness and nuttiness added to its flavor.

Reese’s with pretzels inside are joining the permanent lineup of flavors for the iconic snack. They’ll be available in a regular and King size variety starting in November 2020 at retailers nationwide.

After the regular cups launch in November, Reese’s will eventually release a pack of miniature pretzel-stuffed cups in January 2021.

For those bummed out that potato chips weren’t the actual flavor being announced, Reese’s is actually going to make that available too. They won’t be launched, however, until March 2021, and it will be a limited-time offering.

Categories
Film/Television Grocery Packaged Food Plant-Based What's New

MICKEY NUGGETS: Disney’s Plant-Based Dino Nugget Alternative, Coming Soon

Photo courtesy of Incogmeato by MorningStar Farms

Dino Nuggets have long been the fun chicken caricatures of our school lunches, snacks, and late night cravings. There are many varieties of them today, whether they contain chicken or are plant-based.

However, none yet have had the backing of Disney, who’s lent the iconic Mickey Mouse shape to a plant-based nugget poised to become as popular as the OG chicken dinosaurs.

Photo courtesy of Incogmeato by MorningStar Farms

Disney’s nugget comes courtesy of Kellogg’s, whose plant-based brand Incogmeato by MorningStar Farms is creating the nugget. The protein inside is made with soy, and the resulting product has 57% less fat and 35% less sodium than regular chicken nuggets.

These are meant to be a kid-friendly vegan alternative, giving them fun shapes like Dino Nuggets would, but also a good source of plant protein as well. Given how ubiquitous the Mickey Mouse moniker is, these will definitely be recognizable for kids all over.

It would be especially dope to see this inside of Disney theme parks, where plant-based innovation is already happening at a whirlwind pace. Kellogg’s has told Foodbeast that they don’t comment on future partnerships, but it would be awesome to see it happen.

Regardless, Mickey Nuggets are ready to take kids’ meals by storm when they arrive in the frozen chicken section of retailers nationwide this month.

Categories
Grocery Technology

The First-Ever Amazon Fresh Grocery Store Is Opening In California

Photo courtesy of Amazon Fresh

Amazon has announced that California will be the home of its first-ever Amazon Fresh Grocery Store.

Located in Woodland Hills, CA, the Fresh Store is the first of many models that will feature Amazon Fresh produce and grocery items offered at a lower price point than traditional supermarkets.

Photo courtesy of Amazon Fresh

Convenient store features include Alexa Shoppings lists, which customers can access through their Amazon app while they’re inside the store. Alexa will help them navigate the aisles to find what they need.

There will also be a Dash Cart Lane, which expedites the checkout process using computer vision algorithms and sensor fusion to identify the items in your cart and charge your account accordingly. It’s kind of like Amazon Go in shopping cart form.

Photo courtesy of Amazon Fresh

Customers can also schedule in-store pickups, something that’s been exceptionally preferred while folks are currently minimizing time out in public spaces during this pandemic.

Set to open in a few weeks, Amazon Fresh has already invited a select group of customers to test out the new grocery storefront ahead of the grand opening.

Categories
Grocery Packaged Food Sweets What's New

Ritz Peanut Butter Ice Cream Is Launching From Coolhaus Next Month

Fans of peanut butter Ritz cracker sandwiches are getting a frozen treat that celebrates the best of what that snack has to offer, but in ice cream form.

Photo courtesy of Coolhaus and Ritz, Background by Markus Winkler // Unsplash

Ritz has teamed up with Coolhaus to make a “Crackers & Cream” ice cream that featured a Ritz cracker swirl inside of a peanut butter ice cream. The collab is the first one Ritz has ever done in the ice cream space.

Ritz crackers on their own are well known, but combining them with peanut butter here calls to our childhood lunch snacks and reminds us that the school season is just around the corner.

Since Coolhaus is known for doing some out-of-box flavors, it would also be cool to see a flavor based on the cheddar Ritz cracker sandwiches some time in the future.

For the current Ritz peanut butter ice cream, however, you can purchase it starting it on September 9th. The flavor is a limited edition, and only available for purchase on the Coolhaus website. There’s no telling if it will make it into grocery stores just yet.