A couple of Indian American vegans who remained steadfastly passionate about dairy came together to create animal-free milk through their company, Perfect Day.
Although Ryan Pandya and Perumal Gandhi grew up on two separate continents — Ryan in the eastern U.S. and Perumal in India — when they met in 2014, they realized they were on a parallel journey. Both had grown up enjoying all kinds of food, but became vegetarians as teenagers.
“Separate from each other, both of us were following a vegan diet after learning of the environmental and animal welfare impacts of the meat and dairy industry, but found the dairy alternative options on the market are lackluster and missing the mark,” Pandya recalled to India-West.
A few years into college, they both realized that the motivations they had for giving up meat — concerns about the impact of their diets on animal welfare and the environment — were cause for giving up all animal products. So they both went vegan… and hated their lives.
They were dismayed to find that the transition to a plant-based diet was really hard for one main reason: their love of dairy, according to the company website, www.perfectdayfoods.com.
Fast forward to early 2014. Soon after Ryan began his career in biomedicine and shortly after becoming vegan, he experienced what he calls “the bagel moment.”
Struck by a sudden craving one day, he drove 20 minutes out of his way to find a bagel with non-dairy cream cheese and sat to enjoy his treat. But the moment he unwrapped the bagel and brought it to his lips…drip, the website explained.
Everyone knows that cream cheese shouldn’t drip, but this cardboard-flavored substitute had just stained his pant leg. And he’d paid extra for it, the company said.
The young scientist knew that there must be something missing from the sad soy concoction on his bagel, something unique to milk. He wondered if the technology he used to make medicine at his job — fermentation — could be applied to make the magic ingredients that hold real dairy products together.
As soon as he got home, he began to investigate.
Meanwhile, across the globe, Perumal had been wondering the same thing. Surely someone, somewhere, had found a way to make dairy without relying on cows. Yet his futile searches turned up empty — until mutual friend Isha Datar of New Harvest introduced Pandya and Gandhi over e-mail.
Together they began trading ideas about the possibility of making animal-free milk. It was then that Perfect Day was born, according to the company bio.
Pandya is the chief executive officer and co-founder of Perfect Day, a food company on a mission to create delicious animal-free dairy products, while leaving a kinder, greener footprint on the planet.
He studied chemical and biological engineering at Tufts University, where he contributed to seminal research on tissue engineered meat at the Kaplan Lab before graduating and going on to work at MassBiologics, a small biopharmaceutical company in Boston.
He realized that the same technology used in the pharmaceutical industry could solve other world issues, including one that was particularly personal to him – the need for better dairy alternatives, his bio notes.
Gandhi is a co-founder of Perfect Day. He studied biomedical engineering at SUNY Stony Brook where he worked in the Rubinstein Lab to develop functional tissue engineering scaffolds for the medical industry.
Prior to that, he studied biotechnology at the Sathyabama Institute of Science and Technology in Chennai, India, and worked as a research assistant for the Shrivastava Lab at IIT Bombay.
“We have backgrounds in biological sciences, and independently set out to make our favorite foods in a kinder, greener way – and once introduced, we launched into this journey together, ultimately cultivating and leading a diverse team of chefs, food developers, scientists, engineers, and storytellers that has brought our dream to fruition,” Pandya told India-West.
Five years after Pandya and Gandhi teamed up, their dream has become a reality. They have finally tasted animal-free dairy and now they’re obsessed with bringing it to consumers.
Today, Perfect Day, which has raised $62.5 million in funding, comprises a diverse group of chefs, food developers, scientists, engineers and storytellers, all led by Pandya and Gandhi.
Together the duo is working to bring Perfect Day dairy protein to the world. As the company’s journey continues, they said they can’t wait to team up with food makers large and small to create a whole new category of animal-free food products.
Earlier this year, the San Francisco Bay Area-based company released a limited-edition animal-free ice cream. The vegan, lactose-free ice cream made with new flora-based dairy protein sold out quickly.
“We were thrilled by the overwhelming response to our limited release. There was so much buzz and excitement amongst our community of supporters, and we are still riding the wave from that initial launch,” Pandya said.
The Perfect Day creators love dairy for its indulgent flavors, unparalleled nutrition and versatility, but don’t like the harmful way it’s produced or the fact that some people can’t enjoy it. Their mission is to make a better kind of dairy. They are doing this by creating milk proteins — casein and whey — that are nutritionally identical to what comes from a cow, but without animals.
Flora-based dairy means dairy produced sustainably using less water, energy, greenhouse gas emissions and land. It means cruelty-free dairy produced without the use of factory farms. It also means dairy free from hormones, lactose, cholesterol, and pathogens that can make our food unsafe.
In the future, they hope to bring this product to the masses.
“Our future plans revolve around bringing Perfect Day’s flora-based dairy proteins to tables across the globe through partnering with companies both large and small. Our vision is for Perfect Day protein to be incorporated into products loved universally, like our favorite ice creams, cheeses, milk, and other dairy products,” Pandya explained.
“While we created Perfect Day to fill our cravings as vegans, the implication for a kinder, greener dairy goes far beyond just the vegan and lactose free diets. We hope to collaborate with companies of all kinds to bring our flora-based dairy to mass markets, and expand the impact of animal-free dairy,” he said.