‘Peppermint Latte, Swap The Whole Milk For Some DNA-Sequenced Fungi’

“Peppermint latte, swap the whole milk for some DNA-sequenced fungi.”

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Perfect Day Foods, a startup that has created animal-free dairy proteins to use in traditional dairy products, has raised $140 million, upping its total funding to date to over $201.5 million. The Series C round was led by Temasek.

Co-founded by Ryan Pandya and Perumal Gandhi, the Berkeley-based startup is using its product – commercial-scale microbial fermentation process – to businesses that want to offer vegan products. The capital will be used to create product and technology that meets their vision of serving an “infinite” number of partners in the future.

Perfect Day was started because alternative-dairy products, per Pandya and Gandhi, were just not good enough.

“But there’s nothing magic about milk or cows, there’s got to be something in milk that gives it the ability to make a million different things,” Pandya said. So, the co-founders sought to find an alternative that didn’t compromise on flavor, texture and creaminess. They found that microflora is an organism can ferment plant sugar into milk proteins.

The result? Whey and casein, which the company claims are “nutritionally identical to those that come from cows, but without the downsides.”

Pointing at oat milk and nut milk, Pandya said it works to put in a “glass, cereal, or cream up coffee.” But, he says, “the challenge isn’t really milk, it’s all the other things milk can turn into.” He thinks the biggest weakness in alternative dairy products is that while companies have “developed pretty darn good plant-based cheese, it’s not cheese.”

“Unlike proteins which are made from soy, nuts or other plants, Perfect Day’s protein delivers the same nutrition and delicious taste and texture you’d expect from cow’s milk,” the company’s website says.

Another point the company makes is that milk alternatives are beefed up with starches or stabilizers to mimic the properties that make milk flavorful and creamy.

However, as is the case for any product claiming to be better than the incumbent, the proof is in the pudding (or, dairy-free ice cream). This year, Perfect Day produced a limited edition ice cream with non-animal based whey protein. Flavors included vanilla salted fudge, milky chocolate, and vanilla blackberry toffy. Pandya told me they sold out of the 1,000 sample boxes, sporting the flora-based dairy protein, in 12 hours.

While the ice cream launch did well, the startup claims it is more focused on selling to businesses interested in starting their own animal-free food businesses. The company did not disclose the number of customers it has to date.

Pandya said, “The goal is not to make another vegan brand.” Instead he imagines the company, which was founded in 2014, to end up responsible for a small font ingredient on a nutrition label.

Illustration: Li-Anne Dias

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