PARIS – The Bel Group’s alternative cheese products soon will feature casein milk protein produced by food tech startup Standing Ovation. The companies announced the exclusive partnership on Nov. 15, after Bel acquired an equity stake in Standing Ovation this past September.

French startup Standing Ovation uses a precision fermentation process to make its caseins, which don’t come from animals. The company describes its non-animal milk proteins as identical to those that naturally occur in milk, providing nutritional and functional qualities, as well as the taste of traditional dairy cheese.

Bel Group produces a variety of cheeses, including those sold by healthy snacking brands Babybel, The Laughing Cow and Boursin. Per Standing Ovation, its casein protein makes it possible to produce cheeses with a lower environmental impact and greater accessibility.

The companies plan to work on applying Standing Ovation’s food tech to certain Bel products at Bel’s research and development center in Vendôme, France.

“I am delighted with this exclusive partnership, which perfectly illustrates how our group is committed to food tech for the future of food,” said Caroline Sorlin, chief venture officer for Bel Group. “It also demonstrates the confidence that innovative startups like Standing Ovation have in us to transform the food model. Combining the knowledge and skills of such a startup and a group like ours guarantees that we will be able to offer products that will meet consumers' expectations tomorrow.”

Standing Ovation president Frédéric Pâques and scientific director Romain Chayot, the startup’s cofounders, released a joint statement with the announcement of the new partnership.

“Our ambition today is to see the first products arrive on the market quickly, with a very wide distribution,” they said. “We are proud to partner with Bel Group to accelerate the deployment of these alternative proteins, whose market is growing exponentially, and where we want to play a key role. We look forward to working with a group with proven cheese expertise, iconic brands and a collaboration model that is ideal for startups.”

Bel Group’s research and application director, Anne Pitkowski, described caseins as “essential” to a cheese’s quality.

“They are nutritious and provide firmness, texture and the capacity to melt,” Pitkowski explained. “Standing Ovation's technology combined with our knowledge of the links between structure and function will enable all these features – and more – to be developed. Our unique cheese-making expertise will put these advances into practice. This partnership opens many possibilities for imagining tomorrow’s cheese recipes and products, combining nutritional quality, accessibility and responsibility.”