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Welcome back. Last week was a short newsletter because I had to zip off and grill up Beyond burgers for a crowd. But now I’m back with some pretty sweet news. Perfect Day, the Silicon Valley startup making dairy without the cow, just released its first product: ice cream. And I was lucky enough to taste it.
The ice cream of the future?
A few weeks ago I got in a rental car, cranked up some tunes and drove to Berkeley, CA, to the offices of Perfect Day.
I won’t get into the nitty-gritty science behind it all, but basically the startup is making dairy proteins with genetically modified microflora (AKA bacteria), which they can combine with fats, water, and vitamins to make milk that tastes and acts exactly like the real thing. And they’ve raised a whopping $61 million along the way.
So, how did it taste? Honestly, awesome. The ice cream had the same creamy texture and smooth melt as ice cream made from actual milk, without any sort of funky aftertaste that often comes with other alternative dairy products. After I finished my first spoonful, all I could think was “yep, that’s ice cream.”
Not exactly melodramatic, but that’s the point. Perfect Day’s ice cream tastes exactly like the real thing because, well, it basically is — at least on a molecular level. The dairy in it may not have come from a cow’s udder, but it contains the same key proteins (whey and casein), as well as a similar amount of fats and liquid. It also behaves in the same ways.
Going forward, one thing Perfect Day will have to navigate is what exactly to call their newfangled dairy product — and how to label it.
First, there are regulatory hurdles. Perfect Day is actually branding its ‘scream as “frozen dairy dessert” to avoid any kerfuffles from the FDA, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see some pushback from Big Dairy on them using the word “dairy” at all — after all, they’re already up in arms about plant-based alternatives using the word “milk.” However, as CEO Ryan Pandya pointed out, they need to keep the label on there so people with severe dairy allergies know that they should steer clear.
Perfect Day is also figuring out how it wants to label its product for the consumer. Their dairy isn’t made from plants, but it’s animal-free. It also isn’t grown in a lab, like cultured meat, but it is made using biotechnology. For now, they’ve settled on flora-based — a nod to the microflora that make the milk proteins. We’ll see if consumers embrace the definition, but honestly, if it tastes this good, they might not even care what it’s called. They’ll just be screaming for more.
Starting today, Perfect Day is selling 1,000 three-pint units of its ice cream for $60 (that becomes $100 when you include shipping (jeez, dry ice is expensive)).
When Burger King Sweden first announced it was introducing new plant-based Rebel Whoppers and Rebel Chicken Kings a few weeks ago, we started speculating about which companies might be behind the meatless products. Could it be fellow Swedish company, Oumph? Maybe Nestlé, who was already providing its meat-free Incredible burgers to McDonald’s in Germany and Israel?
As it turns out, none of the above. Yesterday we got an email this week from BK Sweden’s General Manager Iwo Zakowski, who revealed that they sourced their plant-based products from Vivera — the Dutch company that makes vegetarian versions of steak, chicken, and more.
It’s curious that Vivera made its Burger King debut not in its home country of the Netherlands but in Sweden. Then again, the Scandinavian countries have a huge appetite for plant-based products, especially the younger generations. And seeing as Vivera is one of the three largest alternative meat companies in Europe, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see their products on more BK menus coming soon.
Protein ’round the web
- Costco is now selling two-packs of JUST Egg, the chicken-free egg product made of mung beans, for $9.99 — around half the price of a single bottle at most stores (h/t Livekindly).
- Talk about a price cut: Reuter reported this week that cultured meat could cost under $10 in as little as two years. Considering the first cell-based burger cost $280,000, that’s quite the discount.
- Scotland’s largest foodservice company, Brakes, is now serving meat alternatives from startup DARING Foods at its partner hotels and restaurants.