N’ice cream… minus the cows? Smitten teams with Perfect Day to make next-generation vegan ice cream

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

N’ice cream… minus the cows? Smitten teams with Perfect Day to make next-generation vegan ice cream

Related tags Perfect Day Microbial fermentation vegan

San Francisco-based Smitten Ice Cream is the first food company to use ‘non-animal’ whey protein from Perfect Day in a commercial product, giving the market a glimpse of how foods featuring these ingredients might be marketed.

Smitten’s new N’Ice Cream line of frozen desserts – available locally via pick-up and delivery from Smitten stores in the Bay area, and regionally via its direct-to-consumer platform – is marketed as ‘vegan’ and lactose-free, but delivers the taste experience of dairy ice cream, said Smitten founder Robyn Sue Fisher.

We have been working hard and iterating on a vegan product for years, but I refused to put a product on the menu if I didn’t like it as much as our traditional grass-fed dairy flavors​. That all changed the first time I did a blind taste-test of the Smitten N’Ice Cream made with Perfect Day - it blew my mind. I knew, then and there, we were ready.”

‘I did a blind taste-test of the Smitten N’Ice Cream made with Perfect Day… it blew my mind’

While the concept of ‘vegan dairy proteins’ can be hard to get your head around (Perfect Day’s milk proteins are identical to those found in dairy milk but produced via fermentation with an engineered strain of fungi), Smitten doesn’t use the term ‘dairy’ on pack.

The product label - which features the ‘made with Perfect Day’ logo and ‘non-animal whey protein isolate’ on the ingredients list - states that the dessert is lactose-free and vegan, but includes a note under the ingredients list explaining that it “contains milk protein​” and is “not suitable for people with milk protein allergies.”

The N’Ice Cream line comes in four flavors - Brown Sugar Chocolate, Fresh Strawberry, Coconut Pecan and Root Beer Float – and uses a proprietary clean label base from Perfect Day made from water, sugar, coconut oil, sunflower oil, non-animal whey protein isolate, pectin, calcium, potassium, phosphate, citrate and salt.

'Not suitable for people with milk protein allergies'

Perfect Day uses microbes (which it describes as ‘flora’ – which could cover fungi, yeast, bacteria and protists) and adds DNA sequences (which can be 3D printed using synthetic biology techniques) which effectively instruct the microbes to produce the proteins and fats found in milk. (The first products from its platform use a strain of filamentous fungus called Trichoderma reesei​​.) 

The fungi feed on sugars and other nutrients in big fermentation tanks and secrete the protein into the broth from which it can be harvested.

Speaking to FoodNavigator-USA late last year after raising $140m in a Series C round​, Perfect Day co-founder Ryan Pandya said the firm's dairy proteins (and in future fats​​​​) are greener and kinder than those produced via industrialized animal farming, but also represent a new supply of animal-free ingredients that deliver the unique functionality and nutrition of dairy so that formulators do not have to compromise.

"Typically companies are looking at this as a third category somewhere between plant-based and traditional dairy, where we offer the nutrition and functionality and flavor experience of dairy and the heart and soul of ​​​a plant-based protein.”

Further reading:

Smitten Perfect Day Rootbeer Float N'Ice Cream
Smitten has five shops in Northern California, delivers across the Bay Area through DoorDash, Caviar, UberEats, PostMates and GrubHub, and later this year plans to expand its reach further through national shipping, creative brand collaborations, pop-ups and more.
SmittenBrown Sugar Chocolate N'Ice Cream ©AudreyMa
Smitten make everything from scratch — from its ice cream bases and cone batters to its sauces, cookies and toppings.

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