Is Perfect Day the Perfect Dairy-Based Vegan Ice Cream?

Dairy-free ice cream is a highly popular product, even if they aren’t always as tasty—and “creamy”—as the real thing, but a new brand aims to change that.  

On Thursday, Silicon Valley technology startup Perfect Day unveiled its new, first-of-its-kind, completely lactose-free, vegan ice cream that is made from real cow milk proteins (but not derived from a cow).  The company has launched this 1,000-pint, very-limited-release batch in three flavors—Vanilla Salted Fudge, Vanilla Blackberry Toffee, and Milky Chocolate—which are only available in a three-pint bundle for $60 (plus shipping and handling, of course).

Perfect Day co-founders Ryan Pandya and Perumal Gandhi are actually biomedical engineers who also happen to be vegans. This big idea came out of the shared desire to address a mutual problem:  creating another type of vegan dairy product—cheese, at first—that is indistinguishable from cow-milk-based [cheese] varieties.  

To accomplish this, they use bovine DNA sequences as a blueprint that is then inserted into yeast-based microflora. Microflora are microscopic organisms that we already use to make a variety of everyday items like vitamins and probiotics.  This microflora then undergoes acellular (sans animal cells) fermentation, the result of which produces abundant milk proteins.  This yields a tasteless milk base that can then be used to any number of animal-free milk-based products that are nearly identical to traditional dairy; so much, in fact, that Perfect Day is required—by law—to include a statement on the packaging that the product “contains milk proteins” (for allergen and regulatory requirements). 

Pandya comments, “The FDA definition for animal products come from an era when there was only way to make them, and therefore they are limited in scope.  Today, that is no longer the case and the definition should be based on what the product actually is versus where it came from. With Perfect Day’s flora-based protein, we hope to educate consumers on the delicious possibilities of this protein, which will also be empowered by how we label it on products containing it.”

Perfect Day is only about five years old, raising $60 million in venture capital funding—mostly from agribusiness behemoths like ADM—to brew their udder-free whey proteins and ferment them into dairy proteins.   And while this was their first product to hit the market, it is not going to be available forever:  only 1,000 customers who sign up on their website for the release will be guaranteed 3-pint batch.