What if there was an alternative to plant-based milk products and cow’s milk, which was practically the same as the latter — but without having to exploit animals to produce it?
That’s what California-based company Perfect Day has been working on, using mushrooms to produce milk protein that’s “molecularly identical” to that found in cow’s milk.
That means it can be used to make dairy products like cheese and yogurt.
“We were interested in the question of what is in milk … that gives it incredible versatility and nutrition that is somehow missing from the plant-based milks,” co-founder of Perfect Day Ryan Pandya told CNN.
The company isolated the gene for whey protein in cow’s milk and introduced it to a fungus.
When the mushroom is grown in fermentation tanks, it produces whey protein, which is then filtered and dried into a powder that is used in products like cheese and ice cream.
“[It’s for] people who still love dairy, but want to feel better about it for themselves, for the planet, and for the animal,” Pandya explained.
The only catch with this new product is that, though the Perfect Day protein doesn’t contain lactose, hormones, or cholesterol, it’s not suitable for those with dairy allergies.
That said, the product is also better for the environment where greenhouse gases are concerned — by removing cows from the equation, milk production is “much more efficient” according to Pandya.
The production of Perfect Day’s milk results in a 97% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions when compared with conventional dairy products.
Food technology as an engine for positive change
Perfect Day isn’t the only food tech startup making alternative dairy products is the future.
Grounded Foods has been making vegan cheese from hemp and cauliflower that goes unsold in supermarkets for an irregular appearance or for not being quite as fresh, which also helps combat food waste.
According to figures from non-profit organization the Good Food Institute, $590 million were invested in fermented alternative proteins in 2020.
Perfect Day is already reaching an international market, with its protein used in Hong Kong Ice Age ice creams.
The company is currently working on developing cream cheese, estimated to be launched in late 2021 according to Pandya.
The startup is already seeking regulatory approval in Canada, India, and Europe.
“We’re developing the kinder, greener way to make your favorite foods starting in the dairy aisle, and we can’t do that alone,” he said.