The temptation of ice cream can be a killer for even the most devout dairy-abstainers and flexitarians. So much so that Perumal Gandhi and Ryan Pandya were motivated to create Perfect Day, a company that makes animal-free dairy products with the exact same proteins as the real thing, thanks to fermentation. Their debut product, a suite of ice creams, disappeared as soon as they were released (I can personally attest that they were very, very delicious).

We reached out to Perumal Gandhi to learn more about his motivation behind co-founding a company that makes dairy from microbes. It’s just a snippet of what he will discuss onstage at the Smart Kitchen Summit {SKS} on October 7 & 8 in Seattle, so get your tickets now!

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity. 

What inspired you to create Perfect Day, a company that makes dairy without the cows?
For me it all comes back to the animals and the environment. My entire life, I’ve always been a nature lover and been conscious about humanity’s impact on the world. Although I was raised eating meat, dairy, and eggs, I decided to go vegetarian when I was young. This first transition was pretty easy, I just ate more dairy and eggs to compensate. Fast forward to grad school, I learned that dairy and eggs are part of the same problematic system of industrial farming, so I changed to a 100% plant-based vegan diet.

This second transition was far from easy — I found that I really missed cheese and dairy products. Given my scientific background, I knew that there had to be a way to make real milk in an environmentally friendly way, so I looked into it. Then, thanks to a coincidental twist of fate, I got connected with Ryan Pandya through our mutual friend, Isha Datar of New Harvest. New Harvest is a nonprofit research institution dedicated to funding cellular agriculture research. Isha told Ryan and I that we were the only two people who had ever approached her with the idea to make dairy without animals.

Ryan, like me, had a background in biomedicine, loved the natural world, and had struggled to completely give up dairy foods. We started trading our ideas for making dairy using well-known fermentation techniques. The rest is history! Five years later, we now lead a team of nearly 70 people, have begun to commercialize and scale our technology, and we plan on working with food companies around the world to help evolve what is possible for dairy foods and beyond.

You call your animal-free dairy “flora-based,” instead of plant-based or cell-based. Why is that?
Microflora refers to microorganisms collectively. We use flora as a shorthand way to refer to the fungi, yeast, algae, bacteria and other organisms commonly used across the world to produce ingredients via fermentation.

Not only can fermentation using microflora address the world’s nutrition needs — and our demand for animal products — without the significant environmental and climate impacts caused by animal agriculture, it can also allow for a climate- and geography-agnostic way to produce nutritious food.

Protein made using our flora-based approach is identical to that from animals, but also fundamentally and functionally different than plant-based proteins. We use the term “flora-based” rather than plant- or cell-based because it’s the most scientifically accurate term. We’ve found that it differentiates us from both plant and animal products and describes the origin of our protein in a concrete way.

Perfect Day recently launched its first product: flora-based ice cream (which was delicious). Where is it available now/when will it be on grocery shelves?
We’re so glad you liked the ice cream! This launch was very limited and was only available for purchase through our website. However, we’re working hard to get products made with our protein into stores in the near future. For now we’re directing people to sign up for our newsletter at our website — subscribers will be the first to know when, where, and what the next product will be!

What other products can we expect to see from Perfect Day?
It’s too early for us to share any details about future product launches – but we can say that we’ll have another announcement before the end of this year. Stay tuned!

What a tease! Come see Perumal speak about next-gen protein at SKS on October 7th and maybe you can get some more details out of him. Get your tickets here!

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