SBL – which makes gelatin, dicalcium phosphate, and pharmaceutical ingredients including cholesterol-lowering drugs – has “precision fermentation capabilities with existing fermenters that will allow the company to expand its precision fermentation capabilities in the months ahead while continuing to service existing SBL customers in both the pharma and protein sectors,” according to Perfect Day co-founder Ryan Pandya, who said he plans to retain all of SBL’s employees.
“This strategic acquisition stands to vastly expand our ability to make and sell protein while leveraging our robust technology platform across new ingredient opportunities.”
Perfect Day’s team in India will now be based in Gujarat, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu, with potential additional states in the future as the team grows in this important market.
Perfect Day positioning itself to ‘produce tens of thousands of metric tons of our protein over the next five years’
Pandya, who told us in September that Perfect Day would have the capacity to produce thousands of metric tons of its animal-free whey protein beta-lactoglobulin starting next year “through four commercial-scale facilities on three continents,” told FoodNavigator-USA that the SBL acquisition, and its plans for building out owned manufacturing in the future, would be “additive to those existing co-manufacturing facilities.”
He added: “All of these increases to our manufacturing capacity will position us to be able to produce tens of thousands of metric tons of our protein over the next five years.
“Perfect Day has scaled its protein production over 500% over the past year in order to meet the increasing demand for its kinder, greener products. We have a new partner announcement coming next week, and additional manufacturing and partnership announcements in the months ahead, so stay tuned!”
Animal-free gelatin and collagen
As for new product opportunities arising from the acquisition, he said: “In the near-term, we are focused on delivering on SBL’s existing commitments and beginning the process of integrating our two teams. In the long-term, we plan to explore how we can leverage our R&D expertise to produce animal-free gelatin and collagen.
“We see many avenues from this acquisition to extend our impact into new areas, in addition to the significant lactoglobulin capacity gains that will result from this acquisition.”
Animal-free dairy in India
Asked about the firm’s ambitions in India, Pandya added: “We have an existing team in India with deep expertise in the local demand for kinder, greener products. Now that our regulatory approval is in place, we are using that expertise to build our tailored roadmap for domestic commercial opportunities.
“Globally, consumers love products made with our protein because it allows them to enjoy dairy without the lactose and cholesterol and with a reduced environmental impact, and we expect that products made with our protein will be enjoyed alongside traditional and plant-based products from sustainable producers.”
There is no formal definition of ‘animal-free’ protein – a term being tested by some startups in the space – but it typically refers to products made with ‘real’ animal proteins (whey, casein, collagen, egg ovalbumin, myoglobin) that are produced without animals, either via genetically engineered microbes or genetically engineered crops such as soybeans or peas.
Using synthetic biology, firms in this space effectively ‘program’ plants or single celled organisms such as fungi and yeast to express animal proteins after feeding on sugars in fermentation tanks.
The final proteins are already familiar to the food industry (in its GRAS determination for its animal-free whey protein, which is expressed by a genetically engineered strain of filamentous fungus, for example, Perfect Day notes that it is “identical to commercially available bovine-produced β-lactoglobulin”).
While it has its detractors, using precision fermentation to make dairy and egg proteins without animals, argue proponents, offers the best of both worlds: more sustainable and ethical products that don’t involve industrialized animal agriculture, but still deliver the nutrition and functionality of animal proteins.
While plant-based dairy and egg alternatives have improved significantly in recent years, they argue, animal proteins can deliver certain technical or functional properties that can be hard to replicate using plant proteins, from the melt and stretch of casein proteins in cheeses such as mozzarella and Cheddar, or the aeration, binding, coagulation, emulsification, foaming and whipping properties of egg whites.