A few weeks ago, we shared our new Sustainability & Health Advisory Council, our board of experts across agriculture, health, sustainability, and global nutrition pushing us to our mission of a kinder, greener tomorrow. And now, we want to share more about the incredible advisors who have been with us since day one, helping us build this business from a breakthrough idea to a global team nearly 200 strong.
Three of our corporate advisors — Amy Chang, Isha Datar, and Henk Hoogenkamp — stand out as being critical pieces of the foundation on which Perfect Day was built and continuing to provide us with invaluable direction on building a business with global impact. Without their guidance, we wouldn’t already be on shelves with ice cream, and ready to launch into new areas of the dairy aisle.
One of the most humbling moments for us is when those we admire most dig in our business, and the massive impact possible with it. Below we are sharing a chapter from Henk’s book, published this year. We’re inspired to read about his vision of a diverse food system, led by innovators like us, where “transformational changes across the entire agriculture food value chain will prevent irreversible change which may have wide ranging impacts on human health and the potential burden of malnutrition, not only for the happy few but also for mankind.” We hope you’ll enjoy the read — it’s just a snippet of his fascinating analysis of the future of our food system in his new book.
New Age Milk Protein: No Cow’s about it!
Chapter 37 from Sustainable Protein Solutions by Henk Hoogenkamp
Current models of traditional agricultural methods are too resource-intense: too much land for crops and livestock, too heavy on fertilizers, and too extensive in irrigation. A rethink on how to produce food is needed. In the coming decades, the world will witness an evolution wherein food production systems will need to be bio- regenerative. Animal-free milk protein is not dependent on climate or seasonality, limiting carbon footprint and water consumption. Animal-free dairy proteins, such as those made by Perfect Day Foods, are well on their way to ease the burden of intensive, unsustainable, and ecologically damaging old-style dairy farming.
It will be difficult for the traditional dairy industry to continue its current growth of premium food products that are produced sustainably. There is a pressing need for the collective dairy industry to strive for net zero carbon production, while improving standards for animal welfare and production transparency. Since much of the global traditional dairy industry is based on the cooperation of farmers, these companies must now accept a new reality and a sense of responsibility to establish partnerships with upstart companies that have demonstrated excellence in producing emerging non-animal dairy protein ingredients made via precision fermentation.
Although it might seem like science fiction, food technology has been using microorganisms since ancient times. For example, everyone knows that yeast is needed to bake bread and brew beer. Fewer people know that yeast is used to produce not only human-identical insulin for hundreds of millions of diabetics, but also vanillin or rennet for cheese making.
After the recalibration, of the agricultural production, international trade will remain important to provide adequate calories of high nutritional value and affordable prices for a sustainably fed world. Within this context, a large-scale dietary shift will be needed to transition from animal-driven food system to a new balance of emerging plant and animal-derived protein choices.
Increasingly, there is common belief that a large industrial scale of relentless livestock farms for milk and slaughtering is not ecologically sustainable, thus, bad for planet Earth. Animal farming is responsible for more than half of all food related greenhouse gases and cows are the prime source, with each one burping out some 600 liters of methane a day. These facts are compelling reasons to shift to innovative alternatives such as plant milk and non-animal dairy protein ingredients. Going forward, an increasing number of consumers will be choosing these innovative proteins over conventional cow’s milk for reasons such as animal welfare, health, and climate protection.
It is therefore plausible that the legacy dairy and meat industries await a paradigm shift as a growing number of consumers question their daily intake of animal- derived products, including meat, eggs, and milk, over concerns about their own health, environmental damage, and animal welfare. Lees face it: for a company like Starbucks, its current supply of cow’s milk is one of the biggest sources of carbon dioxide emissions. Many people think that there is some real urgency to change these unfavorable footprints. Fortunately, emerging non-animal dairy biotechnology might be the answer.
Unlike the many dairy alternative brands, microbial fermentation does not rely on plants to make these animal-free proteins. These proteins are truly indistinguishable when compared to their animal-derived equivalent. The animal-free proteins can be labeled as vegan (depending on country-specific regulations) and replicate the identical properties of cow’s milk protein.
Dairy alternatives like those made from soy, rice, almond, and oat have become ubiquitous, but all are still lacking the real taste of old-fashioned milk Fortunately, a fundamental shift has taken place now that bio-cultured fermented dairy protein has become available, which is organoleptically and nutritionally identical to those in cow milk. The microbes programmed to produce milk proteins are basically another gigantic step in the fine-tuning of the same processes currently used to make probiotics, vitamins, and soy-leghemoglobin — an additive to color and flavor plant meat foods.
NON-ANIMAL PROTEIN FERMENTATION
All proteins in nature are encoded by specific sequences of DNA called genes. Animal-free milk proteins are vegan by nature and can be described as flora-made or fermentation-derived protein. Flora is an all-compassing term that refers to a microorganisms such as bacteria, yeast, or fungi. Microflora to make proteins have a long history of safely making ingredients, including protein and food products.
Fermentation is an age-old art that is now being teamed up with groundbreaking science. Perfect Day Foods is well on its way to become the world’s premier company to create a whole new category of animal-free food products by developing a method to produce high-quality nutritious, tasty, and performing milk protein ingredients by fermenting microflora. This technology encompasses the fermentation to convert sugar from the microflora into milk proteins such as whey and casein.
To make non-animal milk protein, microbes are used. During the fermentation process, the flora-microbes are brought together with a sugar-based medium which converts it into high-quality milk protein ingredients and, in the future, also milk fat. The microflora can be seen as the “blueprint” that allows it to ferment sugar and create real dairy protein. This is the very same “blueprint”, in the form of DNA, which cows use.
These animal-free milk proteins have a flavor profile and flavor release that are identical to milk. However, it is important to know about not only the organoleptic and nutritional advantages but also the excellent fat-binding properties to keep the integrity of the envisioned end-product together, including opaque stable dispersions in milk beverages. Unlike most “plant milks”, flora-cultured milk protein ingredients do not rely on stabilizers, gums, and emulsifiers. When used in fat-and-water emulsions, the non-animal milk proteins have strong lipophobic and lipophilic (hydrophobic) affinity showing interfacial adsorption. The latter properties make these proteins hugely important for formulated foods, in which fat and water need to be immobilized or stabilized even under high temperature retorting conditions.
There is little doubt that ingredients like animal-free milk proteins (i.e., whey protein isolate) produced via microbial precision fermentation (without any cows) are among the important solutions for food security to safeguard future nutrition.
Microbial precision fermentation — also known as Facilitated Expression Fermentation — is a process that enables the programming of micro-organisms to produce almost any complex organic molecule. Modulated micro-organisms such as yeast, fungi, and bacteria are capable of producing everything from collagen to heme proteins, cell cultured meat, milk proteins, egg albumen, and proteins found in human breast milk.
A KINDER AND GREENER MILK PROTEIN
Synthetic biotechnology will greatly contribute to ease the growing pains of global food insecurity and will be able to favorable manage supply chain issues. A good example is Clara Foods — a Silicon Valley startup — that has succeeded in replacing the specific groups of proteins in egg white without necessarily replicating it compound for compound. The bottom line is that to achieve 100 percent functionality, certain specific amino acids ratios are needed, instead of the entire spectrum. For example, novel chicken-less egg proteins are unique albumen replacement for environmental-friendly food platforms, including clean and natural labels, improved digestibility, as well as eliminating price instability. These cellular-cultured egg proteins are derived from yeasts that are traditionally found in eggs and show unique application and nutritional characteristics, without the inclusion of animal-derived ingredients, The technology is based on fermentation systems using specific modulated yeasts inputs that enable a nature identical protein.
These technologies have the potential to greatly disrupt the legacy food and ingredient industries known today. Although price points of precision fermented products or ingredients are still higher than traditional proteins, it is projected that — due to process efficiencies — these protein ingredients will be significantly cheaper than traditional protein sources by 2035. Once the scale-up and infrastructure of the manufacturing have been completed, it is projected that the animal-free milk proteins can be as much as 30–40 percent cheaper than conventional cow milk proteins. By 2025, prices of these cell-cultured ingredients will possibly be on par or better when compared to conventional protein ingredients.
In addition to these price advantages, the new methods to generate animal-free milk protein have tremendous environmental and ecological advantages, considering that more than 80 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions and huge clean water reductions can be achieved.
There is an ongoing revolution in the protein production arena, and it seems that future consumers will not mind that their food comes from microbes. Seen from this perspective, it is no wonder that the current big players in the legacy food and pharmaceutical industries are making bold strategic moves to invest in these biotechnology-driven startups.
Let’s face it, the consumers’ desire to return to traditional methods of food production is often blurred and based on bucolic images of small farms used by large food conglomerates, which are clearly far removed from the realities of factory farming. In the end, consumers will wise up and realize that the idyllic perception of sentimental country photographs does not reflect reality. In addition, huge parts of today’s food and beverage consumption — from yogurts to beer — are already produced using fermentation.
FROM TRADITION TO FUTURE
The dairy industry is trying hard to portray the image of cozy red barns and green lush pastures for their dairy herd to enjoy. Unfortunately, that is not the reality anymore. Now that traditional “meat farming” has been transformed into huge industrial-scale operations, it looks as if the traditional dairy farming is following suit. There is a definite world trend that the industry shifts to large industrially-operated dairy farms. Dairy demand remains exceptionally strong in Asian developing countries.
For the home EU markets, world-renowned cooperative conglomerates such as FrieslandCampina has seen better years — partly caused by reduced domestic demand for dairy — and are now in need of additional financial funding from the world’s largest agri-bank, Rabobank. One of the reasons is that in the EU, most dairy farms are significantly smaller in terms of herd count and are still family operated. However, also in the EU, traditional family-owned dairy farms are ceasing operations in record numbers, mainly due to government environmental restrictions (methane) such as very tight greenhouse gas regulations. Traditional dairy companies, such as Hochland Cheese in Germany, are taking notice and proactively investing in these emerging opportunities for animal-free dairy protein.
In terms of dairy factory farming, the US is way ahead of the EU. In the US, dairy farming is rapidly transitioning the landscape into huge, efficient, and industrial operations that are far from the rather idyllic picture consumers are made to believe.
In 2020, about 55 percent of the milk produced in the US is produced by less than 3 percent of its farms. For example, in Wisconsin, the number of dairy farms has dwindled from more than 75,000 in 1970 to about 7,000 in 2020. Consolidation in the dairy industry saw 80 percent of dairy farms close in the EU from 1980 to 2014, whereas, 92 percent of family dairy farms have closed in the US since 1970. “Get bigger, or else get out” is the new mantra for dairy farmers, many of whom owned and operated farms with their families for many generations.
The switch from small-scale farms to consolidated, gigantic industrial agriculture happened within one or two generations. Likewise, it can be predicted that the switch from industrial farming to precise microbial fermentation in large stainless-steel vats will also happen very fast. In the future, conventional dairy and eggs, as well as meat production, will still be viable businesses, although a higher proportion of animal protein will come from microbial fermentation.
DAIRY MINUS THE COWS
It is anticipated that the new generation of proactive consumers will be open to the idea of purchasing products formulated using animal-free milk proteins and animal- free milk fat in foods like ice cream, yoghurt, and cheese.
The way forward is a technology of “animal protein without animals, instead made by using microflora”. Come to think of it, the animal-free milk protein is neither animal-based nor plant-based, but rather microbial-based. Like With all groundbreaking new technologies, work still needs to be done by demystifying the consumer on how the emerging biotechnology really works and how this new ingredient not only improves their health but also provides them sustainable superiority.
As with the case of all new disrupting technologies, consumers need to get used to certain names and it is important that the right name is used to communicate with the consumers. Negative-sounding names such as “synthetic” or “lab-grown” should be avoided, simply because consumers might find such names scary. Yet, for younger consumers (those aged 30 and below), the willingness to accept positive-sounding names such as “animal-free milk protein”, “flora milk protein”, and “cultured milk protein” are good compromise for these novel food ingredients. This is especially the case when these products can be associated with causes such as “save the planet” and “sustainability”. Going into the future, novel proteins will continue to break barriers and time, and continued exposure will slowly move these great-tasting proteins from novel to ordinary.
TRADITION UNDER ATTACK
With the exception of drinking good old-fashioned dairy milk, Americans are consuming more dairy products than ever before. Their love for cheese, yoghurt, and ice cream more than compensates for the decline in milk consumption.
Within the legacy dairy industry, a scenario is unfolding that sales of milk are under attack by makers of plant-based milk alternatives made from plant protein sources such as, soy, rice, pea, oat, cashew, and hemp. In the US, about I out of 7 bottles of milk is now formulated using plant ingredients. At the same time, global demand and the use of milk protein — especially whey protein — keeps growing in a plethora of food and beverages ranging from protein smoothies, nutri-bars, sarcopenia, wellness, weight management, sports performance, and infant nutrition.
Ecologically and environmentally speaking, it will be a hard sell to justify ever-increasing output of dairy by continuously adding more dairy herds. Environmentally speaking, pushing traditional dairy production into unchartered territory is increasingly seen as a main contributor of greenhouse gas emissions, clean water waste, and a host of other negatives that surround large-scale traditional factory-farms.
MICROFLORA PROTEIN VOCABULARY
Flora is a catch-all term for many kinds of microorganisms that include yeasts, bacteria, and fungi, which all play an important role in everyday life like the probiotics that are essential for human digestive health.
Perfect Day Food does not use yeasts, but rather filamentous fungi. Fungi is very commonly used to produce enzymes and other food ingredients. An alternative word for fungi is “microflora” which may be a better word to best describe the new biotechnology that is now being implemented.
The process for producing animal-free milk protein involves adding genes essential to culture the microflora and, subsequently, allowing the dairy flora to ferment plain sugar into the main dairy protein constituent’s casein (cheese curd) and whey. Microbial fermentation is the new buzzword, which is now well on its way to make a large part of the traditional dairy protein industry obsolete.
The specific microbes ferment sugar to make milk proteins that are chemically identical to casein and whey. In microbial technology, amino acids are generally most effectively produced through fermentation, mainly using glucose energy as substrate. The resulting protein is considered acellular, because no cells are present in the final product. This process is exactly the same DNA blueprint that cows use every single day. These animal-free microbially-generated milk proteins are identical to those found in cow’s milk, without compromising on protein purity in terms of quality. Subsequently, also identical are the parameters such as DIAAS and PDAAS, as well as the organoleptic and performance properties like dispersion, solubility, gelation, whipping, and emulsification. A little bit further into the future, synthetic enzyme and fungi modulation technology will also allow the creation of hypoallergenic versions of these milk protein ingredients, as well as further refinements in their amino acid profile, most notably, the increased contribution of leucine.
The idea of producing animal-free milk protein is no longer just wishful thinking. The first commercially successful production of premium-quality whey protein isolates occurred in 2019, and the technology is now happening for staged market introduction in 2020. A B2B ingredient introduction strategy of a few select launching customers is being implemented, while ramping up quantities to meet demand.
ANIMAL-FREE MILK PROTEIN: CLEAN AND GREEN
Unlike the legacy dairy proteins derived from cow’s milk, the animal-free milk proteins have no traces of hormones, cholesterol, lactose, antibiotics, pathogens, and chemicals such as dioxin. All of these are disruptors that “infiltrated” the traditional milk, while the cow was grazing. The future has arrived, now that flora microbes graze on simple plant-based inputs and naturally convert them to premium milk protein.
The Perfect Day Foods company represents an evolution in modern clean and green protein nutrition. Their milk protein ingredients are designed to leave the future behind by delivering the authentic taste of nature. The Perfect Day animal-free milk proteins are 10096 animal-free and GRAS-approved by the FDA. The microflora is grown at optimal temperature, pH, and salinity. By following a strict cleaning regimen for the closed fermentation tanks that is isolated from the outside world, animal-free milk protein can be considered as the safest protein available in the world.
Feeding tomorrow’s world will require a more efficient use of plant resources to secure more sustainable food choices. Nutritious plant-based and flora-based products such as animal-free dairy protein is crucial for human health, and they provide environmentally sustainable foods that are satisfying, tasty, and commercially viable.
Plant protein ingredients, together with microbially-driven food technology, such as animal-free milk protein ingredients, are potential game changers that allow sustainable sourcing for large food conglomerates and deliver cost-efficient, high quality options at the desired quantities on scale.
These transformational changes across the entire agriculture food value chain will prevent irreversible change which may have wide ranging impacts on human health and the potential burden of malnutrition, not only for the happy few but also for mankind.
Regulatory reviews by the FDA and EFSA will certainly address possible GMO issues that are part of the initial process of creating the designer-flora used to kick-start the protein culturing in fermentation tanks. Since the animal-free milk proteins are made without the use of animals, the protein is classified as vegan. It is important to know that the animal-free milk protein does not contain active GMOs. Although genetic modification is part of the initial process to modulate the protein production in microflora once the proteins are produced, the modified flora is filtered out with no trace left in the final protein product.
Although the animal-free milk proteins are self-affirmed GRAS, both the FDA and EFSA still have to go through though the thorough process of reviewing, classifying, and rulemaking in terms of name identification on a food label. Looking into the crystal ball, it is likely that the recommended label declaration will be something like anon-animal whey protein”. However, as rapidly increasing foods made by using cellular synthetic biotechnology take on a stronger position in world’s food sustainability and security, animal-free protein such as “non-animal whey protein isolate” will eventually become the words of choice.
BIOTECH IS MARCHING ON
Progressive adaptation of biotechnology is well on its way to close the gap between vegan and animal derived foods and will be able to create dairy proteins that are identical to those found in cow’s milk. This technology basically adds genes to produce milk proteins from Trichoderma — a type of microflora that ferments sugar into whey protein isolate and casein protein.
This groundbreaking biotechnology can also be broadened to make butter fat. The development of these “non-animal fats” is a major accomplishment, especially since it will capture the very complex and hugely popular flavor profiles, as well as enable the creation of a fat that is solid at room temperature and will melt smoothly when heated. Biotech-created milk fat has a superior taste when compared to, for example, palm oil and many other plant oils.
Very few plant fats can solidify, not to mention that some plant fats need to be chemically hardened and are grown in former rainforest territories, as well as need extensive and long shipping lines. These ecological issues are questionably unsustainable, and thus, potentially a future threat to global supply chains.
THE VALUE FOR MANKIND
The modern affluent consumers who traditionally spent billions of dollars to import dairy based ingredients will not be the only ones that will benefit when these microbial protein fermenters are built in world regions that are currently economically depressed. Perhaps the biggest value of Perfect Day Foods’ invention will be its contribution to provide premium nutrition to all those billions of people who are currently malnourished due to lack of infrastructure and processing knowhow.
Governments and universities in dairy-producing countries, together with industries in non traditional dairy countries, should be closely working together to reduce the negative impact of the imports of huge amounts of dairy ingredients such as non-fat milk powder and milk protein.
There is little doubt that precision fer- mentation to create protein ingredients will be hugely disruptive to the current complicated processes of livestock farming. Perhaps the greatest value that the technology has is its potential to transform and decentralize the current traditional supply chains of dairy ingredients which allows — for the first time in history — non-traditional dairy import countries such as Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines to become truly import-independent by producing their own milk protein ingredients. As such, there will be profound advantages, including huge savings on import, the reduction or elimination of greenhouse gas emissions, not to mention massive improvements in agricultural land re-allocations, and clean water efficiency.
CELL-BASED MOTHERS MILK
Culturing mammary cell-based products outside the human body is another innovative technology that can fully replicate the nutritional profile of breastmilk. Cell-based breast milk is now being developed by startup Biomilq (US), and Turtle Tree Labs (Singapore) is pioneering a method to produce high-value cell-based milk components technology that have benefits in the gut and brain health for both infant and sarcopenia nutrition. Startup Biomilq and Turtle Tree Labs aims to offer this type of supplemental nutrition to milk with the practicality offormula products. The mission of these startups is to closing the gap between infant formula offered today and the perfectness of mother’s breast milk. These bioactive proteins and complex sugars naturally present in breast milk are another display of the booming cell-based ingredient market, which is of special interest for infant milk formulas.
Three, out of four moms stop breastfeeding before the recommended six months (CDC/NIS 2018–2019 Survey). Generally, mothers feed their babies infant formula out of necessity rather than preference. With the rising global population, more parents are facing hurdles to provide exclusive breastfeeding, forcing challenging trade-offs on families to feed their children during the first 1000 days of life.
Mammary cell-based mother’s milk can be of great benefit for mothers suffering from low milk production, medical challenges, incompatible workplaces, or the ongoing (social or ethical) stigmas around breastfeeding in public.
MUCH MORE TO COME
Mirroring the future, precision fermentation of flora proteins like those developed by Perfect Day Foods will further disrupt the current status quo in the world of nutraceuticals and wellness personalized nutrition. These developments specifically relate to bio-active ingredients that find their use in numerous applications such as dietary supplements that target recognized positive effects on health and wellbeing.
For example, non-animal milk protein hydrolysates contain AP dipeptides, which inhibit alpha glucosidase that enables the blood sugar levels to be regulated. The latter is especially important for reducing in the risk of developing (pre)diabetes. On the horizon are also the microbial-generated milk protein hydrolysates, including the types which contain the bioactive component decapeptide with soothing and relaxing properties that significantly reduce stress-related symptoms from both chronic and acute stress.
However, it does not end here. Specifically designed non-animal native milk protein hydrolysates that are naturally rich in casein phosphor peptides are uniquely able to bind calcium and preserve its bioavailability throughout the digestive tract. The ability of these phosphorylated peptides contributes to calcium absorption in bone cells, thus increases bone mass and reduces bone deterioration. These values make these micro-ingredients important for growing children and women going through menopause, as well as for sarcopenia dietary intervention.