Today, Silicon Valley-based vegan startup Perfect Day announced an expansion of its Series C funding round to $300 million—building on the company’s initial $140 million Series C round that it completed last year. Founded by biomedical engineers and vegans Ryan Pandya and Perumal Gandhi, the company creates vegan, dairy-identical proteins by inserting a cow’s DNA sequence as a blueprint into yeast-based microflora—tiny living organisms used to make everyday items such as vitamins and probiotics. The flora then takes the place of a cow and undergoes an acellular (without animal cells) fermentation process producing an abundance of proteins that can be used as a base for “flora-based” products that are indistinguishable from dairy foods such as milk, cheese, and ice cream. To prove that its flora-based proteins function identically to dairy, Perfect Day launched a 1,000-pint limited batch of vegan ice cream in 2019—which, despite its hefty $20+ per pint price tag, sold out in less than 24 hours.
For the updated funding round, Perfect Day welcomed new investor Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPP)—which made its first investment through its Thematic Investing division that focuses on supporting companies striving to fight against, and withstand the challenges of, the climate crisis. “Sustainable technologies like Perfect Day are poised to capture structural shifts in industrial practices, physical resources, and consumer preferences for environmentally conscious options, which are well-suited to our long term investing approach,” Leon Pedersen, Managing Director, Head of Thematic Investing at CPP, said.
While the dairy industry is bound by long production cycles dictated by continually manipulating and exploiting animal biology for profit, Perfect Day’s process is flexible, creating a solution during demand fluctuations such as those demonstrated by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. While the animal dairy industry experienced a glut in supply as schools and foodservice providers ceased operations during COVID-19, Perfect Day was able to double its ability to produce its unique animal-free protein—for which the company recently received a coveted Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) status from the United States Food and Drug Administration. “We never doubted we’d reach this point, we just didn’t expect to get here so quickly,” Pandya said. “And, thanks to our world-class team and investors, we’re not planning to take our foot off the pedal anytime soon. The coronavirus pandemic has shown just how fragile our food system is. We’re committed to building real change that prioritizes diversity, agility, and resilience.”
While Perfect Day is capable of making its own consumer-facing products—such as those ice cream pints—the founders are focused on partnering with existing companies that can use their flora-based proteins to create vegan versions of their traditional dairy product lines. This May, Perfect Day landed its first commercial business partner, artisan ice cream chain Smitten Ice Cream. Using Perfect Day’s flora base, the shop now offers a line of vegan Smitten N’Ice Cream in flavors such as Brown Sugar Chocolate, Fresh Strawberry, Coconut Pecan, and Root Beer Float.
“We’re grateful for the continued support of our investors from all over the world,” Gandhi said. “But, of course, our mission is about much more than money. We continue to believe the next generation of protein will be driven by production speed, price, and taste, and we’ll have several exciting updates to share in the months ahead as our commercial partners start to build momentum.”