Agri-tech start-up, Perfect Day, released a line of real ice cream made with lab-grown dairy that costs $20 a pint on Thursday — and it sold out in hours.
"We were completely blown away by the response," co-founder Perumal Gandhi tells CNBC Make It.
Perfect Day's cultured dairy is created by taking cow's milk DNA and adding it to a micro-organism like yeast to create dairy proteins, whey and casein, via fermentation. Those dairy proteins are then combined with water and plant-based ingredients to create a dairy substitute that can be used to make ice cream, cheese, yogurt and a slew of other dairy products.
Gandhi, 28, says the dairy substitute is nutritionally identical to cow's milk and tastes just like it. In fact, while Perfect Day Foods at least considers its product "vegan" and lactose-free (since lactose is a sugar found only in mammals' milk), federal law actually requires them to put "contains milk" on any labeling because its protein is identical to cow's milk on a molecular level and could cause allergies.
Co-founder Rayan Pandya, 27, says the process to make the dairy is similar to what plant-based "meat" start-up Impossible Foods is doing using heme, a molecule in soy plants that's identical to the heme molecule found in meat. Using heme, Impossible Foods is able to make its vegetarian meat substitute taste and feel like beef without using animals.
The limited edition run of 1,000 three-packs of Perfect Day ice cream — a pint each of Milky Chocolate, Vanilla Salted Fudge and Vanilla Blackberry Toffee for $60, which costs closer to $100 with dry ice shipping — was the first and only product released by Perfect Day Foods (which has been working with the Food and Drug Administration since 2014) to drum up buzz. The pints, which were sold on the company's website, will be delivered to customers in three to four weeks, according to the founders.
One writer who got an early taste of the product said she was surprised how creamy and smooth it was and claimed it tasted just like real ice cream. Another reviewer, who has been a vegan for years, said while the product is good (and creamy), it may not be for people who believe dairy is detrimental to your health.
Pandya says while the $20 a pint is high, they decided on the cost based on other premium direct-to-consumer ice creams being shipped on dry ice in the U.S. Most of the premium pints on the web today range from $12 to $17 a pint.
For any future ice cream made with Perfect Day's dairy proteins, the company plans to work with ice cream manufacturers rather than produce and sell it themselves, according to the founder. And the company plans to forge partnerships with brands and food manufacturers to ultimately become a dairy supplier. Perfect Day says it already has several deals in the works but declined to disclose any names.
This story has been updated and revised to clarify the process by which the animal-free dairy is created.
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