General Mills’s animal-free cream cheese Bold Cultr is meekly culled

Food tech has never been quite as exhilarating as it is currently – but the path to broad acceptance is long, slow, costly and likely to be littered with culls. The latest is Bold Cultr, the first Big Food animal-free dairy cream cheese brand, launched two years ago…

General Mills has discontinued its animal-free dairy cream cheese brand Bold Cultr. The brand’s website says it closed on Feb 27. Bold Cultr was a startup brand under General Mills’ corporate venture studio G-Works.

The note on the website says after a recent review of its innovation portfolio and investment decisions, “the difficult decision was made to deprioritize funding for Bold Cultr.”

Bold Cultr was Big Food’s first foray into using animal-free dairy as a main ingredient for a product. Other products using dairy proteins made through precision fermentation include Mars’ CO2Coa chocolate bars, Nestlé’s Cowabunga milk and Bel Brands’ Nurishh Incredible Dairy cream cheese.

FoodDive insights:

Bold Cultr officially launched in November 2021, and it was heralded as the first Big Food collaboration with a precision fermentation ingredient company. The brand launched online and in a few stores in Minnesota, close to General Mills’ Minneapolis headquarters.

It looked as if General Mills was planning to ramp up Bold Cultr this year. Although Bold Cultr changed its supplier of animal-free dairy from US-based Perfect Day to Israel’s Remilk — reportedly because the Perfect Day supply contract had a limited duration — the brand appeared to be growing.

In January, General Mills told Food Navigator it was planning on expanding Bold Cultr to more retail stores in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. It also aimed to create more of an e-commerce presence for the brand.

According to a post on Bold Cultr’s Facebook page, the online store opened on Feb 10 for pre-orders that would have shipped in March. Comments on the post indicate the online store did not work for some people.

The abrupt closure of the Bold Cultr brand may signal bad news for animal-free dairy. The fact that one of the major food companies chose to create a product with this new ingredient showed the world that dairy proteins made with precision fermentation were worth considering.

Companies using precision fermentation bioengineer small organisms such as yeasts so when they are fermented, they produce various proteins that are commonly found in other food items. Bold Cultr used a whey protein made through this method.

It’s hard to say what this means for other launches of products using animal-free dairy ingredients. General Mills did not respond to a request for more information by press time.

Similar launches from large CPG companies have started slowly, with Mars’ CO2Coa only available online and Nestlé’s Cowabunga sold in a few grocery stores in the San Francisco area. Companies haven’t shared much about how the products are performing or how consumers are responding.

However, companies and consumers still seem to be interested in animal-free dairy, with Unilever officials reporting the company is interested in using animal-free dairy ingredients in ice cream.

Although companies have talked about how animal-free dairy could be enticing for vegans and better for the environment, studies have shown consumers are most interested in the fact that dairy made without animals is more humane for cows.