California-based food tech Perfect Day has expanded its Series C funding round to US$300 million following a second tranche led by a US$50 million injection from Thematic Investing, the investment group under the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB). Unlike plant-based alternatives, Perfect Day uses fermentation to replicate real dairy proteins whilst eliminating the animal cruelty, environmental harms and food safety concerns associated with conventional dairy farming.
The startup’s new funding follows its initial US$140 million Series C, which was led by Li Ka-shing’s Horizon Ventures and Singapore sovereign fund Temasek. This second tranche brings Perfect Day’s total funding to over US$360 million.
Founded in 2014 by Ryan Pandya and Perumal Gandhi, Perfect Day has developed slaughter-free protein through fermentation, a biotechnology that allows the company to replicate the molecular proteins produced by cows in labs. In doing so, it comes at a fraction of the environmental footprint associated with traditional dairy farming, as well as the animal welfare concerns.
With this funding, Perfect Day hopes to accelerate its impact via partnerships with established brands, selling its animal-free dairy for use in products such as cheese, milk and ice cream, and to scale-up its production to bring down costs. Earlier this year, the company launched with San Francisco-based Smitten to launch non-animal whey protein ice cream, and will aim to roll out cream cheese in the near future.
The company believes that its product – molecularly identical and functions, tastes and performs the same way as dairy proteins – will be more readily accepted by major manufacturers, who will not need to change their processing and equipment when using its milk protein.
For years, dairy consumption has been on the decline, with consumers choosing plant-based alternatives for health and environmental reasons. The shift in appetite for dairy has prompted the two biggest dairy producers in the U.S. to declare bankruptcy, while vegan substitutes such as oat milk saw a record 636% growth in sales between 2018 and 2019.
Even the world’s biggest coffee chain, Starbucks, declared earlier this year that it will be pushing plant-based milks and removing the “tax” for non-dairy milk options as a part of its sustainability agenda.
But some consumers remain unconvinced by the taste of plant-based substitutes, and Perfect Day believes that their product will be crucial to change the dietary habits of those who still prefer cow’s milk. Additionally, the startup is more nimble to respond to changing supply and demand – something that has wreaked havoc on the big dairy industry during the coronavirus pandemic, which has led to millions of tonnes of fresh milk being thrown out.
With the fragility and vulnerability of the animal-centric food supply chain exposed by the crisis, a number of other alternative dairy companies are seeing increased investor interest. Most recently, Singapore-based TurtleTree Labs raised US$3.2 million in a seed round for its lab grown dairy and human breast milk.
Meanwhile, plant-based cheese startup Good Planet Foods raised US$12 million in its Series A, followed by news that pea milk company Ripple Foods attracted investment from Multizen, a major Chinese confectionery firm.
Lead image courtesy of Perfect Day / designed by Green Queen Media.