Danone enters strategic investment agreement with Wilk to develop animal-free infant formula
French dairy giant Danone has contributed $2 million in a strategic investment round with Israeli developer of cultured animal and human breast milk, Wilk.
The multinational’s corporate venture arm, Danone Manifesto Ventures, led the $3.5 million round, with 3D printed cultured meat developer Steakholder Foods (formerly MeaTech) and the Central Bottling Co (owner of Coca Cola Israel) also contributing to the fund.
Founded in 2020, Wilk is believed to be the first company worldwide to successfully create both animal and human milk from cultured mammary cells. The company wants to provide the dairy industry will a long-term, sustainable alternative to cow’s milk, as well as give new mothers who don’t wish to or cannot breastfeed another option that is just as nutritious.
The strategic agreement between Wilk and Danone’s venture group will allow both companies to work together and develop cultivated breast milk components to be used in infant formula.
Both companies will also assess the potential for collaborative commercial opportunities and operations. This could include developing agreements for joint development and grants for Europe or US-based initiatives.
Following the investment, Danone is expected to hold at least 2% of Wilk’s share capital, while Steakholder Foods has said it will own a 2.5% stake in the company.
“We’re extremely excited to announce our strategic collaboration with Wilk”, Arik Kaufman, Chief Executive Officer at Steakholder Foods said in a statement: “As part of our commitment to sustainable foods solutions, we see this collaboration as another step in expanding Steakholder Foods’ growing contribution to the Food-Tech ecosystem and a strategic step in the optimization of our investment and holding structure.”
Several companies are working on animal-free dairy development in Israel. Last year, Rehovot-based company Remilk raised $120 million – the single largest investment for a cow-free dairy company – which it plans to use to build the world’s largest precision fermentation plant for cow-free milk production in Denmark.