As the demand for plant-based milk alternatives continues to soar, consumers have witnessed an influx of options ranging from almond and soy to oat and rice milk. The plant-based milk industry has expanded at an astonishing rate, offering lactose-intolerant individuals and vegans an array of dairy-free choices. However, an exciting new contender may soon join the lineup, offering not only a taste remarkably similar to dairy milk but also a shelf life of up to three years. Enter sugar cane milk, a revolutionary product created through precision fermentation.
Sugar cane milk is poised to revolutionize the plant-based milk market, thanks to the innovative process behind its creation. According to Professor Mark Turner, a renowned expert in food microbiology at the University of Queensland, sugar cane milk is derived from sugar cane, molasses, and other by-products. These components serve as feedstock for yeast, which, through a precision fermentation process, produces a protein that is nearly identical to the proteins found in dairy milk. This breakthrough technology has attracted the attention of numerous startup companies in Australia and abroad, with scientists confident that it has reached a critical stage of development.
One of the most compelling aspects of sugar cane milk is its nutritional profile. Professor Turner explains that the protein in sugar cane milk closely resembles animal proteins, such as those found in cow’s milk and eggs. This similarity makes sugar cane milk an excellent source of protein, which, when combined with other ingredients in the final product, could enhance the protein content of various foods. Cow’s milk protein, known as casein, is renowned for its high-quality protein content, containing all essential amino acids and being highly bioavailable.
The production of sugar cane milk is set to take place at the world-leading Future Foods BioHub in Mackay, in collaboration with the Queensland government and Asia-Pacific fermentation company Cauldron. The Queensland government has provided substantial funding of $528,000 to kickstart the project, with Cauldron eagerly awaiting regulatory approvals to proceed. Cauldron’s CEO, Michele Stansfield, highlights the collaborative efforts of cane growers and scientists, emphasizing their dedication to developing this innovative product.
Ms. Stansfield stresses that the goal is not to replace the existing food industry but rather to complement and supplement it for the future. By creating an alternative value stream for the sugar industry, they hope to stabilize pricing fluctuations and ensure the continued use of sugar in an ever-changing nutritional market landscape.
The sugar cane milk project is expected to bring about significant economic benefits to the sugar industry and agricultural communities. While it may lead to a reduction in sugar exports, it offers the potential for crop growth and economic growth within the region. According to Jannik Olejas, CEO of Mackay Sugar, selling products domestically instead of exporting them can reduce international transport costs for growers, thus benefiting local farmers. Kevin Borg, President of Canegrowers Mackay, believes that this innovative technology presents an opportunity for premium pricing, where farmers supply the cane, and experts work out the science.
As sugar cane milk emerges as a viable contender in the plant-based milk market, the conversation surrounding its impact on the dairy industry and the preferences of consumers intensifies.
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