The “Got Milk?” ad campaign has done a solid job getting Americans to consume cow’s milk and related products. But over the years, alternatives like almond milk and soy milk have skyrocketed in popularity as palatable replacements for people who are lactose intolerant, concerned about milk’s environmental and ethical impact, or simply looking for something different.
Perfect Day, a startup that’s created a synthetic milk which supposedly tastes and looks just like the real thing, believes it can grab consumers who have shunned milk products in the past.
That’s because many of the same people who buy rice and almond milk in the store still grab cow cheese, ice cream, and yogurt on their way out, according to Perfect Day CEO Ryan Pandya. “That’s the person who’s looking for someone better in dairy. It’s about creating more options,” he says.
Pandya and cofounder Perumal Gandhi are bioengineers who started their quest for the perfect cow-free milk two years ago, when they found themselves disappointed with available options.
So they started brewing milk from a strain of yeast they call Buttercup. The process is similar to brewing beer. First, Perfect Day feeds sugars to yeast. Then it adds in non-lactose sugar, vitamins, minerals, and proteins (the same casein and whey proteins found in cow’s milk).
The process allows the company to replicate “the terroir of different milks,” according to Gandhi, since they can control the levels of different ingredients.
Milk probably won’t be Perfect Day’s first product, because while existing alternatives do a serviceable job (for now), there are few tasty options for people who want alternatives to milk-based products like yogurt and cheese.
“There are cheeses that make sense because they have the biggest market, like mozzarella and cheddar, and there’s also the kind of fancy cheese you have with crackers and wine. We want to do all of it, and we can do all of it,” says Pandya.
Perfect Day hasn’t gotten much pushback from dairy companies. In fact, the company is in talks with the industry — which has long struggled with competing milk alternatives —
to partner up.
Dairy farmers, on the other hand, might feel a little more threatened. “We’re not out to burn down the dairy industry or harm family farmers. It’s about changing the need and the reliance on industrialized factory farming,” says Pandya.
There’s no word yet on a release date for Perfect Day’s first product. But the company, which has so far raised $4 million, hopes to have something in stores by the end of 2017.
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