LOS ANGELES — No cows were milked in the making of Brave Robot, a new brand of ice cream formulated with animal-free dairy protein. Launched by Los Angeles startup The Urgent Co., Brave Robot was developed in partnership with Perfect Day, a producer of whey and casein using fermentation in microflora instead of farmed animals.
“This is one product of hopefully many products that will help us change the way people consume food,” said Paul Kollesoff, co-founder and general manager of The Urgent Co.
Brave Robot ice cream features the taste and texture of dairy-based ice cream but is lactose-free, cholesterol-free and vegan. Available online and in select retailers for $5.99 a pint, varieties include vanilla, chocolate, peanut butter and fudge, butter pecan, hazelnut chocolate chunk, vanilla and cookies, raspberry white truffle and blueberry pie.
“What we’re doing is next-generation food,” Mr. Kollesoff told Food Business News. “It’s somewhere between animal- and plant-based products; it gives the benefit of both.”
The problem with plant-based ice cream alternatives, he said, is often the taste and texture fail to meet a flexitarian consumer’s expectations. Brave Robot is bringing the dairy experience in an environmentally sustainable way, he said.
“We were able to create a product that gives you the taste, experience, texture, fun and joy of a dairy ice cream without the need for an animal,” he said. “It just felt like an obvious place to start.”
The ice cream is packed in pints lined with material derived from sugarcane, not petroleum like many other ice cream containers. The company also uses paper from sustainably harvested trees and minimal color ink on the packaging.
Crafting dairy proteins without cows requires less energy consumption, land usage, greenhouse gas emissions and water consumption, according to Perfect Day, which has raised $300 million in venture capital funding over the past year to expand its novel processing technology. In recent months, the Bay Area ingredient manufacturer has doubled its production capability while significantly reducing costs several years ahead of expectations. The company also recently achieved Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) status from the US Food and Drug Administration for its proprietary flora-made protein.
An industry veteran with 20 years of food and beverage experience, Mr. Kollesoff most recently led product strategy at Glanbia Nutritionals prior to starting The Urgent Co. in April with Perfect Day co-founders Perumal Gandhi and Ryan Pandya. Future product development may tap into additional food technologies that extend into other product categories.
“We are looking at the whole CPG system, not just the food itself,” Mr. Kollesoff said. “We’ve got a blank piece of paper and trying to figure out where we can make most impact.”
A challenge of introducing a new product concept to market during a pandemic is the limited opportunity to share product samples with consumers and retailers. Still, Brave Robot has seen solid online sales and is expanding into additional retailers in the coming weeks, including select Albertsons stores, Mr. Kollesoff said.
“We find retailers are looking for innovation,” he said. “Ice cream specifically is skyrocketing in terms of sales during the pandemic. The numbers are up phenomenally, and I think retailers are saying, ‘How do we keep that going?’ They’re asking and looking for innovation.
“But it has been difficult in that tasting is believing with our product.”