Chicken-less egg proteins and more: Clara Foods investment could lead to innovative rollouts, claims Ingredion VP


By Robin Wyers in New Orleans, Food Ingredients First

05 Jun 2019


Ingredion is looking into Clara Foods’ innovative pipeline that encompasses solutions that address several platforms beyond chicken-less egg proteins. Clean label preservatives, clean proteins, nutritionals for improved digestibility, as well as albumin replacement are all platforms being proposed to customers, with a 2020 market rollout for initial products being considered. This is according to Joseph Light, VP, Global Development & Ingredient Technology at Ingredion, which led a Series B funding round in the San Francisco-based biotech start-up in April 2019.


“It is really a collaboration that we want to work with them on,” he tells FoodIngredientsFirst at IFT 2019 in New Orleans. “They have a pipeline of new products that they want to bring to the marketplace and that we think will fit very nicely within what some of our customers are looking for.”


A series of products exist that the company is starting to talk to customers about potentially bringing to market. “For example, clean label preservation, clean proteins that are highly soluble and could go into a range of different food products at very high concentrations. They also have products that could help with improving digestibility, so perhaps in the supplement area. Also, it could be about replacing albumin in bakery and different types of food applications,” he notes.


Under the terms of the agreement, the financial details of which are undisclosed, Ingredion is partnering with Clara Foods to globally distribute and market multiple proteins derived from yeasts that are traditionally found in eggs. These products will augment Ingredion’s portfolio to include highly functional proteins that will produce food and beverages with higher levels of protein and unique characteristics without the inclusion of animal-derived inputs and come as part of a strong protein strategy.


“The technology is a fermentation technology where we basically identify a very specific protein that you want to produce and through a fermentation process, you are able to produce that nature identical protein,” Light explains. “Clara Foods’ focus has been initially on egg protein, but they have expanded beyond that area. We want to start engaging in discussions around the products and are looking at a first launch beginning in 2020. We are looking at two of these options first, but we want to validate with customers first on what their interest is,” he adds.


For Harshal Kshirsagar, VP of Product at Clara Foods, the most important part of the Ingredion investment is the scale and penetration that comes from working with the ingredient powerhouse. “We are a small company that is a 4-year-old start-up that employs 35 people, 90 percent of whom are scientists,” he notes. “So what we will be able to do is take our technology and scale it up in a way that it can be taken to market. We are making a lot of pilot studies validating with customers and consumers and building the roadmap for our commercialization,” he says.


Kshirsagar notes that the company has already validated the quality and that it is now a matter of slowly scaling this up and putting a regulatory and business development structure around it. He touts a very robust pipeline for the biotechnology innovator. “So far we have validated six different proteins. We have a nutritional protein, a functional protein, two specialty enzymes and also a prebiotic. We can take any of those and scale them up and make them available at commercial quantities based on what the market demands,” he explains. The beauty of this technology is that it is very scaleable up to 2 million liter fermenters, Kshirsagar claims.


While the technology that Clara Foods uses is patentable, it is very well known and has been used for some seventy years already, with Impossible Foods an example of a company using it very well now. “We are using the same strain technology and very established process technology. There is nothing new in there, which makes the scale up much easier. The IP will really come from the product. We are making these unique novel proteins and we are going to protect them in these applications,” Kshirsagar notes.


In the case of the company’s chicken-less egg protein, Clara Foods has succeeded in replacing the specific groups of proteins in egg white without necessarily replicating it compound for compound. “You don’t need the 100 plus proteins that the egg has. You need these specific proteins in these specific ratios to make functional egg products. That is a matter of composition supporting manufacturing. No one is able to make the mass the way we can where individual proteins are put in that ratio and make functional proteins out of them,” he adds.


Clara Foods is currently also evaluating...