SCOTTSDALE, Arizona — Nearly six months after a limited-time offering of its own ice cream, animal-free dairy protein company Perfect Day is gearing up for a larger rollout in the coming months — the first in a series of product launches in 2020 expected to eventually go beyond just the frozen treat, Ryan Pandya, the company's CEO, said in an interview.
Perfect Day sold its owned branded pints of cow-free dairy ice cream on its website last summer for $60 for three pints. Despite the price tag, the company sold out of its 1,000 containers in just one day — a fact that surprised even the company. It hasn't been offered since until now.
In an interview on the sidelines of the International Dairy Foods Association's annual forum in Arizona this week, Pandya told Food Dive the company is aiming for a "much, much broader" rollout of ice cream this year.
"There would be no ice cream brand that isn't aware of us pretty much at this point. We're working with the ones that give us the best chance to reach the broad demographics that want better ice cream. Every major multinational (company) is talking to us."
Co-founder and CEO, Perfect Day
This time, the company is working with "a variety of companies' brands" that will incorporate the Perfect Day milk protein into products such as ice cream. They will be sold under their labels rather than Perfect Day's and will be offered through "multiple channels," including retail and food service. Pandya said the ice creams won't carry the $20 price per container, but will command a "premium" similar to what consumers currently pay for plant-based options.
"There would be no ice cream brand that isn't aware of us pretty much at this point. We're working with the ones that give us the best chance to reach the broad demographics that want better ice cream," Pandya said. "Every major multinational (company) is talking to us."
Monica Massey, an executive vice president and chief of staff at the Dairy Farmers of America, the largest U.S. dairy cooperative by membership, was among those who purchased the limited-edition Perfect Day ice cream last year.
"We sat down in a dairy cooperative headquarters and ate it, and I said 'Oh, we're screwed' because it tasted just like like ice cream," she told Pandya from the audience during a panel at the IDFA Dairy Forum. "In the industry we get hung up on 'You can't call it dairy.' ... (Perfect Day's) not focused on the cow, you're focused on the consumer, and we are so hellbent on focusing on the cow, the milk."
Pandya said Perfect Day is prioritizing "the right brands that have the right scale or are in the right geographics, (and) have the right messaging." The company is careful, for now, not to work with partners that are too big in size until Perfect Day can realistically meet the protein volume the food manufacturer will need. Pandya said Perfect Day has been in discussions with potential partners about using its milk protein, including Unilever's Ben & Jerry's.
Focused on innovation
Along with ice cream, Perfect Day plans to enter new product categories in late 2020, where food and beverage manufacturers will again use his company's milk protein. He would not discuss what those products would be. Instead, he pointed to a photo released by Perfect Day last month that showed the future product portfolio opportunities, including ice cream, shredded and natural mozzarella cheese, cream cheese and spreadable cheddar cheese.
While Pandya didn't rule out Perfect Day-branded products again at some point, the focus for now will be on licensing out its protein — something akin to what Intel has done with its processor chips.
"Getting to consumers is something that food companies, product companies are better at," he said. "We're not built as a CPG company. We're an innovation protein company. ... Whether we decide to play in the consumer space at some point, I don't think the door is closed for that, but it's not our core business."
IPO a 'compelling option'
Perfect Day closed a $140 million funding round in December — more than twice the amount the company has raised in its previous five years — to accelerate business growth, expand production capacity, deepen partner opportunities and add to its product portfolio. Pandya didn't offer specific details, but hinted that an initial public offering could be something he would seriously consider.
"Who wouldn't prefer to stay private?" he said. "But I think we get so many inquiries from people all over the world that wish they could invest in us. It's certainly a compelling option to think about."
A stock offering would be the first among the companies that have spent the last several years researching how to use fermentation or other scientific methods to produce food and beverages. Motif FoodWorks, which is working to recreate dairy, egg and meat proteins, has said it is on deck to get products to market in 2021. Clara Foods, which is creating animal-free egg proteins, partnered with Ingredion to develop, market and distribute ingredients.
Speaking to a panel at the IDFA Dairy Forum, Pandya made a direct pitch to CPG companies, producers and others in the audience to partner with Perfect Day. The partnership not only benefits his company by increasing the marketplace for his protein, he told the crowd, but it helps producers and others by giving them an opportunity to partake in any potential growth of the category. It also could give them a way to draw back consumers who have fled dairy.
"We want help and we don't want to have a situation where 12 years later it looks like we didn't even try to work together or that 20 years it looks like we're the next plant-based (product) that was here to try to fight dairy," he said.
For now, Pandya said the company's primary focus is centered on ramping up its scale in the market place. Its partnership with Archer Daniels Midland to boost production could "definitely ... be one way to do that," he told Food Dive.
"We have to make much larger tonnage (of our milk protein) to be able to become relevant as a supply chain," he said. "We have a lot of growth to do."