Microbial food cultures and the microbiome are all the rage in healthy eating right now.
While scientists are still researching the benefits of microbial health and the role that bacteria play in overall wellbeing, companies have raced to offer consumers all kinds of microbial cultures that aim to be good for your gut — and the planet.
Fermentation is actually at the heart of the technology that’s bringing new plant-based replacements for animal products to market. And the switch to plant-based foods can be hugely environmentally beneficial.
Given the interest, it’s no surprise that Kingdom Supercultures, a startup out of Brooklyn, would be able to attract $25 million in financing from some of the country’s top venture investment firms to build out its offering.
Founded by serial entrepreneurs who have launched and sold an internet security company and a media company (with Ashton Kutcher) and created an educational platform for 3-D printing, Kingdom Supercultures is aiming to commercialize its array of natural microbial cultures for the plant-based food market.
Co-founders Kendall Dabaghi and Ravi Sheth were both studying health at Columbia University before founding Kingdom Supercultures.
After a stint in the startup accelerator program Y-Combinator the company raised its initial $3.5 million from Sequoia, Y-Combinator, Lakehouse Ventures and Brand Foundry Ventures.
Using the tools of genetic engineering, recombinant proteins can be produced using a variety of expression systems and hosts, including microbial, mammalian, insect, plant or algal cells grown in bioreactors as well as transgenic animals and plants. Image Credit:Flickr/UC Davis College of Engineering
“The last few years have seen tremendous growth in demand for consumer goods that are healthier and more sustainable,” said Dabaghi, CEO of Kingdom Supercultures, in a statement.
The company takes existing microbes and combines them to create plant-based yogurts and cheeses, low-alcohol wines and beers with the same flavor as the harder stuff, and natural preservatives that can work better than artificial ones, according to a statement.
Kingdom’s stated goal is to replace the artificial chemicals and preservatives that have ensured that food keeps its flavor and freshness, but at the cost of human health and wellbeing.
Some of the biggest entrepreneurial names in healthy and plant-based foods have signed on as investors in the company. These are the founders of businesses like Daring Foods (the company formerly known as Nuggs), Good Culture, Hungryroot, RXBAR, Waterloo and more.
With the new funding, Kingdom Supercultures intends to expand its specialty ingredients to sell to consumer goods manufacturers.
New York is an ideal location for the business, since some of the largest legacy companies it’s challenging are based in the city. These are companies like International Flavors and Fragrances, a New York-based additive company with a market cap of $35 billion.
Kingdom pitches its technology as an alternative to artificial chemicals and claims to have the ability to tune the sensory and functional properties of their products using natural ingredients. Just like an IFF would build out artificial isolates to determine and modify food properties — Kingdom uses natural, microbial strains.
“We are pioneering an entirely new field of science and class of ingredients by working with biology at the ecosystem and microbiome level,” Sheth, the company’s chief science officer, said in a statement. “Our Superculture platform allows us to assemble natural microbial cultures into new combinations, delivering healthy and sustainable breakthrough ingredients to our customers — all without genetic modification.”
The new investment was led by Shine Capital, a new(ish) investment firm launched by former Spark Capital partner Mo Koyfman. Other investors include Valor, Tao, Lux, SALT, Reference, Digitalis and the aforementioned founders of other successful food startups.
“We were drawn to Kingdom’s visionary founders and their use of natural biology coupled with machine learning to help catalyze our move towards natural food, beverage, and beauty products,” said Mo Koyfman, founder and general partner at Shine Capital. “Particularly as the plant-based market continues to expand, Kingdom Supercultures is poised to enable large and small brands alike to deliver the highest quality natural products to consumers. We are in the early stages of this market’s development, and we are thrilled to support the company’s vision from the ground floor.”