San Francisco Start-Up Working on Vegan Gelatin


Alex Lorestani and Nick Ouzounov

Little do most consumers know that marshmallows and gummy bears aren’t the innocuous treats they appear to be. Like so many other common products, the traditional versions contain gelatin, a macabre ingredient derived from skin, tendons, ligaments, and/or bones of cows and pigs.

Thankfully for animals and consumers alike, a new start-up, Gelzen, is working on creating vegan gelatin.

The San Francisco-based company was founded by partners Alex Lorestani and Nick Ouzounov. Lorestani was in a physician-scientist training program, and quickly learned about the growing risk of infectious disease thanks to antibiotic resistant bacteria (fueled by antiobiotic use in farm animals). Ouzounov earned his PhD in Molecular Biology at Princeton University, and as a vegetarian was frustrated by the lack of an animal-free gelatin alternative.

As far as the science, the whole process revolves around microbes. “We make gelatin from scratch by programming microbes to build it for us,” explains Lorestani. “It’s the same approach that humans use to brew beer, make insulin, and many other animal-free products.”

Gelzen’s version of gelatin will be cruelty-free, sustainable, and safer for human consumption.

“We have taken the machinery that builds collagen in animals, and moved it into microbes. These microbes can produce animal-free gelatin at massive scales. Building gelatin from scratch also eliminates the risk of pathogens that can be transmitted from animal material to humans, greatly improves the efficiency of protein production by using fewer land and water inputs, and allows us to precisely engineer its key properties like stiffness.”

Considering that gelatin is in a countless number of products, from gel-caps to Jello, the market for a better version has the potential to be huge. As The New Omnivore put it: “With its special versatility, stability, and more predictable quality, as well as the fact that conventional gelatin is a by-product of the hugely wasteful factory farming system, Gelzen’s new gelatin represents another bright step forward to animal-free food production.”

So where does production currently stand? “We built the collagen-producing microbial factories,” explains Lorestani. “Now, we’re focusing on scaling production up and making prototypes for customers to test. We are thrilled by how supportive the vegan community has been. There’s a real and urgent need for animal-free gelatin, and we’re working hard to get it out there!”

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Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2015 Hannah Sentenac
Hannah Sentenac, Editor-in-Chief

Hannah Sentenac, Editor-in-Chief

A wizard of words, lover of all living things and vegan mac 'n cheese master, Hannah is the Editor-In-Chief and Founder of Her writing has appeared in Live Happy magazine, the Miami New Times,,, and numerous other publications and websites. She's obsessed with Cocowhip, Just Mayo and Dandies marshmallows, and is totally addicted to the outdoors. You can reach Hannah directly at

7 Responses

  1. Mary Finelli says:

    Vegan gelatin is already available. Google it. It’s great that they want to make more.

    • Hannah Sentenac, Editor-in-Chief Hannah Sentenac, Editor-in-Chief says:

      You’re absolutely right Mary! There are some vegan gelatin-esque products on the market. This one is a little bit different though, as they’re using microbes to create gelatin that’s identical to the real thing (only without the animals). This will allow them to create vegan gelatin on a huge scale, and hopefully corporations and companies will start making the switch. Eventually, animals won’t need to be involved at all!

    • Jamie Foley says:

      There are vegan gelling products on the market such as agar and they work well in some application but they don’t have all the same properties as actual gelatin and so are still limited in their usefulness. The product that Gelzen is making is supposed to be molecularly identical to actual gelatin and so will be able to be used in the exact same way as gelatin currently is without adapting the recipe.

  2. susan sentenac says:

    This is a product long overdue!

  3. Eva Ferret says:

    Looking forward to this product.

  1. December 16, 2015

    […] Vegan News recently ran a story about a San Francisco-based company that has created a real plant-based form a gelatin. The product […]

  2. December 27, 2015

    […] San Francisco Start-Up Working on Vegan Gelatin Thankfully for animals and consumers alike, a new start-up, Gelzen, is working on creating vegan gelatin. The San Francisco-based company was founded by partners Alex Lorestani and Nick Ouzounov. Lorestani was in a physician-scientist training program, … Read more on Latest Vegan News […]

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