Biotech startup Perfect Day is releasing an ice cream today it’s calling the world’s first animal-free dairy product, available in a limited run.
Co-founders Ryan Pandya and Perumal Gandhi expect they’ll ruffle some feathers with their claim. After all, there are already a plethora of ice cream alternatives on the market from soy-to-coconut-to almond-based goods.
But Pandya and Gandhi say their product, which they’re selling exclusively on their site, is a step-change above that: Perfect Day ice cream contains whey proteins identical to what’s in cow’s milk. The startup’s just happens to be made through a fermentation process rather than coming from an animal.
“This is so new in that it has the heart and soul of being plant-based but is an animal protein,” says CEO Pandya. The company plans to partner with food companies rather than create its own brand, but decided to put out this limited run to introduce customers to the concept of animal-free dairy. “We wanted to have an opportunity to show people early what Perfect Day looks like and tastes like,” says Pandya.
Perfect Day is part of a growing group of companies attempting to make animal protein without the animals as consumers become more concerned about the impact their food is having on the environment. Perfect Day is also one of a handful of Silicon Valley startups harnessing the biotech process of fermentation to do it.
To make their dairy proteins, the co-founders took the essential DNA of milk and inserted it into micoflora—yeast, fungi, or bacteria depending on the type of dairy they’re trying to produce. The microflora use fermentation to turn sugar into milk proteins that are identical to those from a cow. The company then combines the proteins with plant-based fats and nutrients to get a dairy product that’s both vegan and lactose free.
Pandya and Gandhi note this is all new regulatory territory. They needed to include an allergy disclaimer on their ice cream label for people who are allergic to milk protein. Current guidelines mandate the label say it contains milk. However, technically their ice cream doesn’t, so instead they say it includes milk protein—a term that is accurate to the product but not FDA compliant. “It’s super complicated,” Pandya says. “It’s very new.”
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