Vegan probiotic yoghurt: Israeli start-up driving APAC ambition with proprietary formula

By Cheryl Tay contact

- Last updated on GMT

Yofix Probiotics' line of yoghurt, called ONLY, currently comes in three flavours: apple and cinnamon, banana and maple, and berries.
Yofix Probiotics' line of yoghurt, called ONLY, currently comes in three flavours: apple and cinnamon, banana and maple, and berries.

Related tags: Probiotics, Yoghurt, allergens

An Israeli start-up is using a proprietary formula to develop a range of vegan-friendly, allergen-free and dairy-free probiotic products alternatives in Asia-Pacific and Europe.

Yofix Probiotics, which recently began selling ONLY, its dairy-, soy- and gluten-free yoghurt, in Israel, says it uses no additives, processed ingredients, or artificial flavours or colours in the product.

The fermented five

Instead, it relies on the fermentation of what it calls its Bio 5 Formula — a proprietary mix of coconut, oats, lentils, sesame, and sunflower seeds — to produce the yoghurt, which currently comes in three flavours: apple and cinnamon, banana and maple, and berries.

CEO Steve Grun told NutraIngredients-Asia​: "Only by using our proprietary production process are we able to combine these five ingredients and ensure they remain in the product throughout the manufacturing process, without the need for emulsifiers or thickeners."

"This makes it an all-in, zero-waste product that provides superior nutritional value and offers a feeling of satiety, which is an important quality."

Indeed, Yofix also prides itself on being environmentally friendly, cutting out wastage by eschewing more common dairy milk alternatives such as soy, almond or cashew milk, which require large amounts of water to produce.

Grun added: "Using the parameters of these ingredients, we've developed a clean-label product that has great texture and taste without adding any artificial flavouring or colouring, or preservatives. We use real fruit, and the product contains both pre- and probiotics.

"We use vegan and dairy-free live yoghurt cultures to manufacture our plant-based yoghurt alternatives, and the probiotic benefits come from our Lactobacillus bifidus and Lactobacillus acidophilus strains that are used during our fermentation process.

"We chose those strains because they are known for their probiotic qualities and also contribute to the texture, aroma and taste of our products. We test the quantities at the beginning and end of the shelf-life to ensure they are stable, and there are many millions of probiotics in each serving.

"Our product also contains only 5% fat — much lower than in other comparable products — and vegan-friendly live yoghurt cultures. I would say this represents a new generation of dairy-free products."

While the yoghurt does contain refined sugar to suit the Israeli palate, Yofix intends to release a sugar-free version for international markets in future, using apple juice and maple syrup instead.

The international food industry has already taken notice of the product, which won first prize at PepsiCo's European Nutrition Greenhouse Programme last year.

Grun also revealed that Yofix makes it a point to source most of its ingredients locally, but also gets its sesame from Ethiopia (one of the world's biggest growers of high-quality sesame), oats from Europe and coconuts from Thailand and the Philippines.

Bio background

Yofix Probiotics was founded by Ronen Lavee, a lactose-intolerant agricultural mechanical engineer. According to Grun, he had lived in China and Thailand for eight years and experienced few dietary issues there, due to the abundance of plant-based dairy alternatives like soy milk.

He developed an interest in such alternatives, and started producing his own plant-based formulations as he familiarised himself with the fermentation process.

However, after moving back to Israel, Lavee noticed a lack of plant-based dairy alternatives, which was particularly evident when it came to clean-label products in this category. This spurred him to develop his own formula.

He began experimenting with fermentation and eventually tested over 100 different formulas before developing the Bio 5 Formula.

In 2015, Lavee joined The Kitchen, Strauss Group's Israeli food tech incubator, as its first member. He left two years later to start Yofix Probiotics, and Grun joined the company as CEO in early 2018. Together, they established a production facility.

With Strauss as its key investor, they launched ONLY at the end of 2018 in supermarkets across Israel.

Global goals

In a few months' time, Yofix will launch in Western Europe in the first phase of its global expansion strategy.

The company is also eyeing several Asian markets, and plans to expand its product range to include other vegan-friendly, allergen-free dairy alternatives.

Grun said, "We are open to cooperation with Asian companies. The flexibility of our Bio 5 Formula will enable us to produce high-quality dairy-free alternatives to items like cream cheese, milk, coffee creamer, yoghurt drinks, and ice cream.

"We plan to have a wide range of such products in a couple of years, and are also aiming to produce white natural yoghurt."

He revealed that Japan, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand were countries of interest for Yofix within APAC, adding that the company had also received interest from China and Thailand.

"We really need to cherry-pick, especially at such an early stage, and focus on where we see the most potential. In Asia, we are already in contact with a few big companies, and we will have to see where the talks head. But we are still open to other companies if they are confident they will benefit from us and be able to help us succeed in Asia-Pacific."

Related topics: Manufacturers

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