Perfecting Milk, Minus The Cows

While making assumptions is never a smart idea, there are some assumptions that feel fairly safe to make.

A company that wants to build and sell bicycles, for example, is at some point going to need to have wheels on hand, because a bicycle can’t be built without wheels.

Skydiving companies have to invest some amount of money in parachutes — because pushing people out of airplanes without a chute is not a business plan so much as it is a homicide plan.

And if one wants to sell milk products, they’re going to invest in a cow — preferably several cows. All mammals make milk, but only one mammal makes milk that has a commercial value — and that mammal is crucial to the milk-making process.

Or is it?

As it turns out, while one would have been right in those first two assumptions, when it comes to the last one, not so much.

According to Perfect Day Dairy, a cow is not a necessary precondition for a firm that wants to sell milk to the masses.

Or, at least, it’s not a precondition for a firm that wants to sell “milk” to the masses.


Milk Minus the Cow

It might be a bit unfair to refer to Perfect Day’s product as “milk,” because it’s not meant to be an ersatz milk-like product.

Founders Ryan Pandya, Perumal Gandhi and Isha Datar all explain that Perfect Day’s version of dairy isn’t designed as a milk substitute à la soy, almond or rice milk.

The product is supposed to milk — just not the kind you squeeze out of a cow. According to its founders, it’s the type of milk one makes, instead of extracts. To make that magic happen, they use a microbial fermentation process to produce animal-free dairy proteins that are the same casein and whey that occur naturally in cow’s milk.

“Our mission is to empower people to enjoy the dairy products they love, while leaving a kinder footprint on the planet,” the firm noted in an email exchange.

All three founders, back in 2014, realized they had something of a conundrum. They wanted to cut out dairy from their diet, because dairy farming is inefficient energy-wise and uses up an extraordinary amount of land and freshwater.

It’s better for the world if people don’t drink cow’s milk.

But cheese is undeniably delicious, and the founders of the firm decided there had to be a way to do right by the planet and by their own stomachs at the same time.

The secret to making milk without having to buy cows?

Genetically modified yeast.

Specifically, yeast that has had its DNA modified — such that once it’s fed properly, it begins spitting out the proteins that give milk many of its unique properties: whey, casein, lactoglobulin and lactalbumin.

The Perfect Day team described the process as “similar in premise to brewing craft beer,” giving the product similar properties to extracting milk from a cow, meaning it can be used in much the same way to make dairy-dependant foods, like mozzarella cheese, yogurt and milkshakes.

Which is critical, because as of yet, Perfect Day’s dairy innovation is being marketed to food companies, not food consumers.


The B2B Go-To Market

Perfect Day was first conceived as a consumer-facing product, but according to the founding team, as they were developing their go-to market strategy, business-to-business commerce emerged as the obvious choice simply because of the volume of food companies that expressed interest in incorporating Perfect Day products into their consumer offerings.

Why focus on the grocery store aisle, when, through partnerships, they had a chance to influence all levels of the industry?

According to the Perfect Day team, some companies are looking to sell fresh vegan milk; others want to incorporate the materials into products like yogurt. And others are looking at applications that the Perfect Day team noted most people probably wouldn’t even think of as dairy-related.

The founders also noted they’re fielding interest from “some of the most popular dairy companies in the world — though, as yet, they haven’t attached any official names to that claim.


Disrupting the World

The team at Perfect Day Dairy is adamant that, in general, they bear no ill will toward dairy farmers and are not trying to push them out of business.

“We’re against unsustainable and unethical farming practices, which are often used in factory farms. But we wholeheartedly support the countless dairy farmers across the globe that use sustainable farming practices and genuinely care for their animals,” they explained.

In their perfect world?

Small “family farms” survive and thrive, while factory farming of milk dies out “and there’s enough delicious dairy to feed our growing planet.”

It’s a big goal, but not an impossible one, considering plant-based milks currently account for 9.3 percent of total milk sales in the U.S. What Perfect Day offers tastes and feels a good deal more like “real milk” than its plant-based counterparts, according to those who’ve tried it.

Perfect Day Dairy is confident in its product and what it can do for the world.

“I honestly think that in five years, I don’t know why anyone would use plant-based proteins in certain products anymore,” Perfect Day’s Pandya told Food Navigator. “Dairy proteins have the best amino acid profile and the best nutrition, so it’s a goldilocks product really.”