Zoltan Toth-Czifra

Zoltan Czifra-Toth
Zoltan Czifra-Toth
Zoltan Czifra-Toth

Milk, be it plant-based or other, is a staple in every household. And since by 2050, the population is predicted to reach 9.8 billion, that’s a pretty unsustainable amount of thirsty humans. Founded in 2021, solution-oriented Real Deal Milk uses a specific fermentation process that modifies microbes to produce casein and whey – the proteins found in milk. Zoltan, an entrepreneur and investor, decided this would be the thing he wants to see change in his lifetime: “It’s a really hard and unknown field to navigate for my team but the potential is so high it’s all worth it.”

Starting Real Deal Milk and deciding to commit his time and money to it was certainly a scary moment for Zoltan. “It’s not like most companies,” he learned quickly. “There are a lot of unanswered questions about precision fermentation dairy, and while the industry seems optimistic about an eventual cost parity and the resulting mass adoption, the path is not crystal clear.” What got him to try in the first place?

60% of young people worry about climate change. This is not a healthy state to be in.

Like many others, Zoltan reads about climate change and other environmental issues every single day in the news. “It has been in our collective minds for decades now, like a stubborn splinter, a source of constant anxiety, yet we all feel powerless about it. A recent global study by Bath University found that 60% of young people felt very worried or extremely worried about climate change. This is not a healthy state of mind to be in,” he says. “I’m in the lucky position to choose what to dedicate my money and time to. Food-tech is perhaps the most impactful area for anyone looking for climate solutions to work in, so it pulled me in, too.”

Zoltan Czifra-Toth

His take on the industry comes from (rightfully) assuming that purely plant-based products won’t work on everyone. “Evidence shows that people do want to eat meat, cheese, eggs, and seafood, but they end up in an ethical conflict as a result. They often respond by ignoring the problem altogether, or even resolving the cognitive dissonance with a counterattack,” Zoltan says of his experience. “If people won’t entirely give up animal products, we need to find a way to make them sustainably and ethically – ‘veganly,’ if you will. That’s what Real Deal Milk is working on, with a focus on dairy.” Right now, their number one goal is safety. Together with a few companies and organizations they look up to, Real Deal Milk is entering a consortium to ensure precision fermentation dairy is safer and healthier than any other dairy product you’ve ever consumed. Besides that, building a B2C brand and creating strategic alliances to get their products on the market are other priorities.

The best way to respond in hard times is to innovate – make tastier and more affordable products.

Seeing that the plant-based industry has been hit in 2022 like many other industries, Zoltan’s prediction is that food techs will come up with even better and more accessible products as a result. “That’s what Real Deal Milk is all about too: innovation. I’m a strong believer that in this century we’ll move away from animal agriculture massively, perhaps entirely. But it won’t happen without a lot of hard work and clever ideas.”

What keeps him going? Surrounding himself with people he admires and can learn from is one conscious practice for Zoltan: “These people will influence your professional and personal conduct more than any books or papers you read.” Second is using excitement to drive your productivity – even if the tasks and problems that excite you are not the most objectively important. “You’ll take care of the urgent things, too, but you can’t afford to let your creative juice go untapped,” he knows to be true.

More about Zoltan

“I’m a huge nut addict, and I love a Hungarian dish called lecsó. It’s our version of shakshuka – very easy to make vegan, and it’s delicious.”

“My favorite book of all time is Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!, a biography of Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman. It teaches you about curiosity, ethics, and how to live a fun life doing what you love.”

“…my superpowermwould be teleportation. I love traveling but I don’t really enjoy flying. Plus, teleportation would supposedly have a smaller carbon footprint.”

I’d be a surf instructor in Costa Rica maybe – in the sun and in the warm ocean all day, moving my muscles and having fun.

“A fun fact about me is that I’m a triplet: me and my two amazing sisters were born just minutes apart. But since we are not identical, it’s not instantly obvious.”

“…my family. My siblings, parents, and grandparents give me the inspiration and drive to be successful and a better person. Every single one of them is accomplished and admirable in their own way. They are a great source of pride, strength, and a little bit of healthy rivalry, too.”