WCMA Perspectives | Contributing Columnist

Perfect Day at the Dairy Forum

John Umhoefer executive director of the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association

February 7, 2020


Perfect Day could have described the weather for the Dairy Forum in Phoenix, but Perfect Day was in fact a headliner: the start-up that’s fermenting dairy proteins with backing from Archer Daniels Midland.

Perfect Day CEO Ryan Pandya spoke not once but twice to rapt crowds, garnering some tough questions about the dairy references in his distinctly nondairy production of mimic proteins, and offering a surprising message of collaboration vs. competition.
It was a fine line to walk.

Perfect Day places the genetic coding for certain dairy proteins into filamentous fungi that convert supplied sugar into the target protein. It’s a method similar to the fermentation that produces enzymes for the cheese industry, Pandya noted. But at the Dairy Forum, one audience member pushed back, citing the complexity that kappa casein, for example, develops in the original fermenter – a cow.

Perfect Day can make kappa casein similar enough to be functional in food formulation, Pandya replied. The company has proto-typed a line of dairy products made with their protein. Pandya revealed that Perfect Day is focusing on production of beta lactoglobulin at this time. Their goal is to produce 100 metric tons of this whey protein in 2020.

But is it whey protein? The labeling of these mimic proteins, and the marketing of them, produced some heat on an already warm day in Phoenix. A series of questions at Pandya’s first talk focused on his company’s strategy to liberally reference dairy, while denigrating it to promote his alternative.

“We love dairy for its indulgent flavors, unparalleled nutrition, and versatility, but we don’t like the harmful way it’s produced or the fact that some people can’t enjoy it,” states the home page of the Perfect Day website. Pandya defended connecting their protein to dairy nomenclature while distancing themselves from cows.

Our protein is a whey protein, a non-animal whey protein, Pandya said. Perfect Day is not aligning with plant-based protein, he noted, and is using the term “flora-based dairy protein” to describe their niche. It’s unclear how the US Food and Drug Administration will view “non-animal whey protein” on a food product label, but Perfect Day intends to include the allergen disclaimer “Contains Milk Protein.”

Pandya’s key message at the Dairy Forum was “Call me.” He noted he is already in discussion with dairy manufacturers; he envisioned dairy companies producing flora-based dairy products with Perfect Day protein to complement their dairy product lines. When asked how dairy companies could not consider Perfect Day a competitor, he parried, stating that the competitors in his sights were plant-based proteins.

Flora-based protein will out-perform pea or soy protein in alternative dairy applications, he said. “We could be dairy’s answer to plant-based proteins,” he told the processor audience.

But clearly the possibility of a new protein competitor had filled the conference room. Pandya estimated a future price point for flora-based whey protein at 40 percent lower than animal-derived whey protein isolate. Perfect Day is executing a life cycle assessment of their dried protein vs. dried dairy protein to determine its environmental friendliness. Perfect Day is also targeting production of alpha lactalbumin and flora-based fats in the future.

Pandya doesn’t believe the bio-engineered flora at the core of their process will be a deterrent for consumers. The landscape is changing, Pandya said. Perfect Day is transparent on their production methods and consumer demand is there for non-animal derived foods, he believes. Their website walks this line: “…genetic modification is part of our process, but it is not present in the final product.”

Hallway conversation ranged broadly after Ryan Pandya’s talks. He described his current goal to produce 100 metric tons of protein as “tiny” and USDA data bears out that this would represent 0.2 percent of WPI production in the US in 2018. Kudos to International Dairy Foods Association for inviting Perfect Day. Regardless of whether this high-profile startup is a collaborator or competitor, the landscape for quality protein is ever-changing, and dairy must continually sharpen its value proposition to meet competition, and consumer expectations
.. JU.


The views, thoughts and opinions expressed by Cheese Reporter columnists are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Cheese Reporter.



John Umhoefer

John Umhoefer has served as executive director of the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association since 1992. You can phone John at (608) 286-1001 or e-mail John Umhoefer at jumhoefer@wischeesemakers.org

Recent Columns

Dairy's Future is CDR Innovation
December 6, 2019

Reform Federal Orders Because Everything Has Changed
November 1, 2019

Water Quality Solutions Begin with Agriculture
September 6, 2019

Assistance Abounds for Artisans
August 2, 2019

Tariffs Erode Export Strength
April 5, 2019

Study: Dairy Imitators Confuse Consumers
February 1, 2019

Dairy And The Evers Administration
January 11, 2019

One Final Push for UW-River Falls
December 7, 2018

The Next Wastewater Collaboration
November 2, 2018

Moderning Milk Starts With Truth In Labeling
October 5, 2018

The Time is Now For Microfiltration
August 3, 2018

Feeling Positively June
June 1, 2018

Dairy Has Truths to Tell Millennials
May 4, 2018

Trade Towers Over Dairy Issues
April 6, 2018

Recognizing Barriers to Growth
February 2, 2018

Advancing Projects Honor the Spirit of an Icon
January 5, 2018

New Gentics Offer Growth for U.S. Dairy Sheep Farms
December 1, 2017

Great Potential & Growing Pains for Emerging Dairy Sheep Industry
November 3, 2017

Wisconsin is Building Processing Capacity for Milk Growth
October 6, 2017

A Strategic Plan For US Dairy
August 4, 2017

Raw Milk Cheese Ain’t Raw Milk
June 2, 2017

Matching Demand To Abundant Supply
May 5, 2017

Canadian Policy Hits Wisconsin Dairy Farms
April 7, 2017

Collaborating on Environmental Gains
February 10, 2017

Winning The Battle Of Perceptions
January 6, 2017

Successful Collaboration on Warm Whey
December 2, 2016

Resources Available To Help Ease Worker Shortage
September 9, 2016

Constructing Communications At UW Madison
August 25, 2016

The Making of a Champion
June 3, 2016

What do you think about 
John Umhoefer's Comments?*

Please tell us if you are a
Dairy product manufacturer 
Dairy marketer /importer/exporter
Milk producer
Supplier to manufacturer