Photo: Perfect Day.

Since we first heard about Perfect Day, the Silicon Valley startup making dairy without animals, we’ve been eagerly waiting to see what their first product would be.

That time has finally come. Today Perfect Day is doing a limited release of three ice cream flavors made with its cow-free dairy. They’re selling 1,000 orders of an ice cream trio that includes a pint each of dry ice-packed Vanilla Blackberry Toffee, Milky Chocolate, and Vanilla Salted Fudge. The cost will be $20 per pint (so $60 total) plus shipping. That’s pretty significant, but compared to some of the fancier plant-based ice creams out there, it isn’t completely outrageous — especially when you consider the level of tech that went into making Perfect Day’s product.

Perfect Day makes its dairy by genetically modifying microflora to produce the two main proteins in milk: casein and whey. They combine the dried proteins with plant fats, water, vitamins and minerals to make a lactose-free product that has the same properties — taste, consistency, and nutritional breakdown — of milk.

Far left, plant-based ice cream. Perfect Day’s ice cream in the middle and right. (Photo: Catherine Lamb)

A few weeks ago I got the opportunity to visit Perfect Day’s labs and give their ice cream a taste. Co-founders Perumal Gandhi and Ryan Pandya laid out three ice cream samples for me to try: two were theirs, and one was from an unnamed plant-based dairy company.

After I tasted the first bite, I could tell immediately which of the three were Perfect Day’s; they tasted just like ice cream. Creamy and smooth, I was almost surprised how much it didn’t surprise me at all. All I could think was “yep, that’s ice cream.”

According to Pandya, the company landed on ice cream as their first product because it’s “synonymous with dairy delight,” and because there’s not a really good plant-based option for ice cream on the market right now. “They all lack the right mouthfeel,” he said. Perfect Day’s, however, exactly copied the experience of eating a spoonful of ice cream — without the odd iciness or aftertaste that can come with plant-based alternatives.

Left: Perfect Day’s protein alone. Right: Mixed with water and fat to make “milk.” (Photo: Catherine Lamb)

In tandem with their new product launch, Perfect Day is also doing a rebrand of sorts. They’re now calling their core product “flora-based” dairy, as the milk proteins are made by genetically engineered microflora, not plants or lab-grown cells. “We want people to know it’s plant-based but not from plants, it’s an animal product but without animals,” Pandya explained.

Since it doesn’t come from an animal, the company has to be careful about how they refer to the ice cream on its packaging. To avoid ruffling the FDA’s feathers, the flora-based ice cream will actually be labeled “frozen dairy dessert.” Pandya pointed out the importance of keeping the “dairy” term in there for safety, as Perfect Day’s milk would trigger dairy allergies just like the stuff made by cows.

Perfect Day’s master plan is to focus on B2B sales and provide their dairy technology to large CPG companies in order to “make the greatest change possible,” according to Pandya. However, they decided to do this initial launch under their own brand to get their name out there and establish the legitimacy of their product. Eventually they envision partners putting “powered by Perfect Day” on their packaging.

Photo: Perfect Day.

In short, Perfect Day wants to become synonymous with their animal-free milk. And they might actually have a good chance. Startup New Culture is also creating dairy proteins through fermentation, though they’re still a ways away from being able to do a product launch. Of course there are all the plant-based dairy competitors, from oat milk to almond milk and beyond. But while some of these options do a pretty good job of imitating dairy, they can’t hope to have the exact same nutrition, taste, and physical properties of milk. Perfect Day can.

Ice cream — er, frozen dairy dessert — is just the start. Pandya told me that they’re working on dozens of prototypes. Just the other week I saw an Instagram post from the company featuring bagels topped with cream cheese made from their dairy. So far the startup has raised $61 million in funding and has a staff of 60.

Today’s release is a one-time deal. Pandya said Perfect Day’s ice cream will be more widely available in 2020, either through partners or under their own brand. Based off of my taste test, I think their technology has the potential to (and I hate this word, but it fits here) disrupt the way that we make and consume dairy alternatives. If you want to try Perfect Day’s flora-based ‘scream for yourself, you can order it starting now on their website.

Perfect Day co-founder Perumal Gandhi will be speaking about forging the future of protein at the Smart Kitchen Summit (SKS) in Seattle this fall! Early Bird tickets are on sale here

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