Today Perfect Day announced that it’s building a team to develop animal-free fats through genetically engineered microbes. The Berkeley, California-based startup has already developed a fermentation-like process to create key milk molecules which can be used to make animal-free dairy.
A blog post from Perfect Day’s co-founders Perumal Gandhi and Ryan Pandya made clear that these efforts are still super early stage. They indicated that there probably wouldn’t be prototypes of products featuring the flora-based fats for a while since they’ll be laser focused on scaling up their milk proteins in 2020. They also didn’t indicate which products they would develop with their fat, but in an email to The Spoon their team told us that “animal-free dairy is the obvious fit.”
The startup has been going at full force recently. Last year the company partnered with ADM to increase production capacity and raised a $34.8 million Series B in early 2019. As I mentioned above, it also launched its first product — ice cream made with their flora-based milk — in July of this year.
This expansion shows that Perfect Day’s scope is far wider than just protein. In the post, Gandhi and Panda write that they want their flora platform “to be as broad and powerful” as possible to make “the full dairy experience animal-free.”
Perfect Day’s announcement also goes to show that when it comes to developing sustainable alternatives to animal products, protein is only part of the puzzle. All of the ingredients — from fats to flavorings — have to be environmentally friendly as well.
Right now, that’s not necessarily the case. Many plant-based products rely on palm or coconut oil for richness, since these two fats are saturated (just like butter or beef fat). However, coconut oil and especially palm oil can be exploitative to laborers and the environment, clearing tropical rainforests.
In short, just because a food is animal-free doesn’t mean it’s necessarily sustainable. Perfect Day’s initiative to revamp every aspect of animal alternatives is a good blueprint for other alternative protein companies to consider, if they’re not doing so already.