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What Is Vegan Whey Protein? Here’s What You Need to Know

California Performance Co. is changing the nutrition game with their animal-free whey protein!

California Performance Co.
Food & Drink

California Performance Co.

California Performance Co. is changing the nutrition game with their animal-free whey protein!

For years, plant-based eaters have avoided whey at all costs, because it contains dairy from cows. But now, innovative brands like California Performance Co. are releasing products with vegan whey protein. Sounds like an oxymoron, right? Well, it’s not. So what is vegan whey protein? And how does it work? Keep reading to find out.

World’s First Animal-Free Whey Protein

In 2021, California Performance Co. launched the world’s first animal-free real dairy whey protein. It looks, tastes, and performs like traditional whey protein—minus the cow! The innovative product is made in partnership with the biotech company Perfect Day. In short, Perfect Day found a way to make whey protein by fermenting microflora—without using cows or their milk.

Microflora are tiny microorganisms that perform tasks like nourishing trees and aiding digestion. Perfect Day uses them in precision fermentation, a process often used to make micronutrients like vitamins and probiotics. But unlike most companies, Perfect Day uses their microflora to create macronutrients—specifically, dairy protein traditionally found only in cow’s milk.

California Performance Co.

California Performance Co.

Turning Fungus Into Vegan Whey Protein

The exact microflora Perfect Day uses is multicellular, filamentous fungus. This particular fungus has a branching structure that allows it to grow rapidly, which makes it the perfect candidate for protein production. So how do we go from fungus to vegan whey protein?

Scientists who worked on the Bovine Genome Project in 2009 safely recorded the genome of a cow. They decoded 22,000 genes from one cow and published the information online. From this data, Perfect Day found the gene they needed for whey protein and researched its amino acids.

Essentially, the researchers take a copy of the whey protein DNA and pair it with the fungus. The microflora automatically incorporates the whey protein DNA into its own genome. So in short, the microflora mimics the DNA of whey protein, which can grow and reproduce.

The Perfect Day team then puts the whey-making microflora in a fermentation tank. There, they create the perfect environment for the microflora to naturally convert sugar to cow-free milk protein. For example, setting the right temperature and pH balance, stirring the mixture, etc. Once the process is complete, the tank contains a brothy liquid composed of water and cow-free milk protein. The team extracts the broth from the tank and separates out the protein and dries it out. The result? The purest whey protein powder that California Performance Co. uses to craft their products.

California Performance Co. V-Whey Protein

California Performance Co.’s V-Whey Protein comes in three flavors—Chocolate Brownie, Vanilla Sundae, and Mixed Berry. Not only does this vegan whey protein mimic the structure of cow-based whey, but it also tastes and performs the same way. Each variety features 20-23g of protein, 130 calories or less, and up to 5g BCAAs per serving. All of which is achieved without dairy, gluten, hormones, or soy.

So, what makes this protein powder so great? In comparison to most plant-based protein powders, V-Whey features a better amino acid profile and a higher protein content. Compared to cow-based whey protein, V-Whey is much kinder on the environment. California Performance Co. creates 97% less greenhouse gasses, uses 99% less water, and up to 60% less energy than the leading cow-based whey protein brand.

Just like any other protein powder, V-Whey can be enjoyed with water or plant-based milk. In addition, you can add a scoop to smoothies, bowls, and any other recipe with protein powder at a 1:1 ratio. Chocolate protein pancakes, anyone?

Why Animal-Free Whey Labels Say “Contains Milk Allergen”

Last but certainly not least, let’s address the question we all have after reading the ingredients label. Why do animal-free whey labels say “contains milk allergen?” This is because the vegan whey protein has the same molecular structure as cow-based whey protein. So this warning is just a precaution for people with allergies.

For more information about V-Whey Protein, visit CaliforniaPerformance.co.

Allie Mitchell

Allie Mitchell


When Allie responded to an Instagram post on @vegoutlosangeles a few years ago, she had no idea she’d join the coolest vegan team on the planet. An Austin native, actress, yogi, and part-time sword fighter (don’t ask!), Allie is on a mission to live her best life and inspire others to do the same. She graduated from Hussian College In Studio with a B.F.A. in Contemporary Musical Theatre + Film and currently acts, writes, and eats her way through Los Angeles.

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