The world's largest food and beverage company Nestlé is striving to achieve net zero greenhouse emissions by 2050. Despite this, the Swiss-based company is a major dairy supplier, using cow-based milk for creamers, chocolate bars, and more, all of which contribute negatively to the brand's environmental goals. One recent bright spot has been the food giant's partnership with food tech company Perfect Day to debut its new Cowabunga brand which includes a selection of animal-free dairy beverages.

Nestle and Perfect Day will launch the Cowabunga products at six Safeway locations across the San Francisco Bay Area. This limited trial run will record how consumers respond to the innovative animal-free whey proteins. This collaborative project is the result of the company's initial partnership announced this September. The Cowabunga brand features both plain and chocolate milk made with this lactose-free whey.

With Perfect Day's help, Nestle intends to transform its product portfolio and alleviate its dependency on traditional dairy farming. Perfect Day uses a precision fermentation technique with microflora to create a functionally identical protein to conventional whey. This way, the food tech company can effectively replicate several animal-based products including ice cream and milk.

“As the world’s largest food and beverage company, delivering foods and beverages that are good for people and the planet is a priority,” Heike Steiling, Head of Nestlé’s Development Center for dairy products, said when the companies first announced this project. “We are exploring emerging technologies that can lead to animal-friendly alternatives that are nutritious and sustainable, without compromising on taste, flavor, and texture.”

What is Animal-Free Whey?

Founded in 2014 by Ryan Pandya and Perumal Gandhi, Perfect Day set out to reinvent the potential of vegan food. To maximize the taste and texture of dairy alternatives, the food tech brand worked to replicate the dairy products on a molecular level.

Now, the company has secured over $700 million worth of investments and expanded into several different food categories. Last April, Perfect Day revised an investment from environmentalist and award-winning actor Leonardo DiCaprio.

Perfect Day's proprietary approach requires zero animal inputs. The fully animal-free whey protein will provide Nestle with a highly sustainable option when developing new food products, while also helping the company significantly reduce its carbon footprint. The food giant launched the U.S. R+D Accelerator to help usher in Perfect Day's partnership, bringing the currently unknown product to market in six months.

“We are excited to pilot Nestlé's first animal-free dairy protein-based products through our U.S. R+D Accelerator,” Joanna Yarbrough, head of R+D Accelerator, said at the time. “While this category is still very young, we know consumers are looking for products that have a reduced environmental footprint, and we are evaluating this avenue as a future growth opportunity for our business.”

“Innovating alongside leaders like Nestlé is a key part of how we’re scaling Perfect Day’s impact,” Pandya told Food Dive. “We can’t wait for consumers to taste how a brand with centuries of world-class experience can partner with Perfect Day to deliver for consumers and our planet.”

This June, Perfect Day also partnered with one of Nestle's competitors in the chocolate world, Mars. The two companies revealed the animal-free, lactose-free chocolate bar brand, CO2COA. Perfect Day has also released several animal-free ice creams with N!CK's ice cream company and Smitten Ice Cream Shop.

Nestle Knows the Future is Plant-Based

In recent years, Nestle has pivoted to develop sustainable options across several food categories. Working with plant-based dairy, Nestle launched its Wunda brand last May. Initially, the pea-based milk rolled out in France, the Netherlands, and Portugal.

Nestle's plant-based innovation extends beyond just dairy products into sustainable meat alternatives. Last November, Nestle invested in Sundial Foods to help the brand create vegan chicken wings so real they replicate the skin-like texture of traditional wings. Under its Garden Gourmet line, Nestle also introduced vegan egg and plant-based shrimp options.

Nestle is also helping expand the greater plant-based food industry. This August, the food giant announced that it is teaming up with the vegan burger concept Nomoo to develop a line of vegan hamburger patties, plant-based chicken, and non-dairy cheese. This will help Noomo enter the highly competitive fast-food market as it expands nationwide.

For more plant-based happenings, visit The Beet's News articles

6 Best Dairy-Free Protein Shakes

When you skipped lunch to get to boot-camp class and now have to race back to the office without eating, it's good to have a couple of options for refueling on the go. So we taste-tested the best plant-based shakes, each one with about 15 grams or more of plant-based protein and fewer carbs, sugars and artificial flavorings.

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