Animal Free Cheese: the 90+ brands on quest to make great tasting cheese, cow-free

Animal Free Cheese: the 90+ brands on quest to make great tasting cheese, cow-free

By
Louise Burfitt
August 24, 2021

🧀 What is it?

  • From hemp seed cheeze to creamy spreads made from almonds, coconut mozzarella and vegan cheese fermented using microbes, the alternative cheese sector is positively oozing. 
  • But that wasn’t always the case: vegan cheesemakers of the last quarter century have tried and - let’s face it - mostly failed to recreate the mouth-watering, oozing, melty qualities of really good cheese. Until pretty recently, cheeses made without cow’s milk were bland and plasticky. And if you wanted them to melt like mozzarella on a pizza? Forget it.

🤔 Tell me more…

  • But the times, they are a’changing. The last five years have seen an explosion in the varieties of vegan cheese on offer. 
  • Propelled by the popularity of other plant-based alternatives (think meat and milk), food startups have turned to cheese as the next ‘big’ thing for plant-based.
  • But it is a trickier nut to crack than plant-based burgers - even though, ironically enough, it is nuts (especially cashews and almonds) that many alt-cheese producers have turned to in their attempts to recreate creamy cheesy spreads and fetas. 
  • Others are using fermentation and microbes to take on the devilishly difficult task of recreating real cheese, tinkering with the genetics of casein and whey to gain melty, gooey glory.

🤷‍♂️Why?

  • Raising dairy cows is, for the most part, not a pretty business. Just as more and more consumers have woken up to the dubious ethics of mass meat manufacturing in recent years, many are now turning their attention to the production of milk and cheese. Alternative cheese makers are banking on this wave of collective consciousness-raising to bring in new customers to the vegan fold, with many startups launched in light of the founder’s own ethical concerns about traditional dairy.  
  • Animal-free cheese is also much easier on the planet. As alt-cheese maker Nobell Foods notes, cheese is one of the worst offenders when it comes to the environment thanks to the methane-emitting habits of dairy cows. In fact, cheese production is responsible for 2% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Meat has already had its animal-free makeover and cheese - a staple food in many countries - is next on the menu. 
  • Brands are also springing up to meet consumer demand. Studies show that over 70% of consumers are keen to try animal-free cheese options - and they’re not just vegans. The alt cheese market is no longer just for diehard PETA supporters; anyone who fancies a break from animal products is encouraged to dip their toes in.

📈 The figures

  • Cheese produced from animal products is of course big global business - standing at about $72 billion in 2019, and expected to grow to $106 billion by 2026.
  • With that in mind, it makes sense that vegan cheese is a rapidly growing segment - it’s already worth $2 billion, but is projected to double in size, reaching $4.5 billion in the next four years.
Source: Statista

🔍 How is it shaping up?

  • First things first: when talking about animal-free cheese, there’s two main categories to distinguish between. The first is plant-based cheese - made with plant-based ingredients like pea protein, aquafaba, soy, hemp or - most ubiquitously - nuts like almonds or cashews. 
  • Up and coming companies in this area include Stockeld Dreamery, New Roots, Les Nouveaux Affineurs, Noosh, I Am Nut OK and Nut Culture - to name just a few of the many, many startups around the world.  
  • Then there’s the companies creating alt cheese not from plants, but from real animal proteins - usually with the help of precision fermentation. Israel’s Remilk, for example, doesn’t use plants to make its alternative dairy products. Using microbial fermentation, the company can exactly replicate animal dairy proteins. This allows for the creation of cheese with the same taste, texture and mouthfeel as the real thing.
  • Other startups working on alternative dairy using precision fermentation include Perfect Day in the US, Israel’s Imagindairy and Formo in Germany. And because many of these startups are using proteins identical to animal-based casein and whey, they can’t call themselves dairy-free. Which means the taste and texture is beginning to stand up to the genuine article - a plus for flexitarians and those who’d rather not say goodbye to their lunchtime cheese toasties.
  • Nations with a storied history of cheesemaking appear to be leading the pack when it comes to plant-based and alternative cheese options. The Netherlands, for example, is well-known for its delectable cheeses from Gouda to Edam, and the country can now boast a wealth of animal-free cheese options to please Dutch vegans too. Check out Innofood Company, Max & Bien, Mr & Mrs Watson, Rosie & Riffy and plantaardige smaakmakers - a pretty awe-inspiring selection for such a small country. 
  • Meanwhile, to the west, Les Nouveaux Affineurs are continuing the tradition of gourmet French cheese-making with their artisanal takes on classic Gallic cheeses.
  • Many startups are choosing to specialise in one type of cheese to begin with, as a way to keep costs down and target a specific demographic. Stockeld Dreamery’s Chunk vegan cheese, for example, is designed as an alternative to feta while Numu makes animal-free mozzarella from coconut oil and soy. This sort of strategy makes sense when you consider that, often, a specific recipe or occasion calls for a specific cheese. Rather than trying to spread themselves too thinly, honing in on a distinct alternative option allows vegan cheese makers to do one or two things really well. 
  • The wealth of options on the market - particularly in the US, a leader in the segment - is clear to see. Wheels, slices, pre-grated pizza cheese, blocks, wedges and soft cheese spreads - all are readily available in animal-free form. 

👀 Who? (90 companies in this space)

Image Credit: Stockeld Dreamery

🇸🇪 Case study: Stockeld Dreamery

  • Stockeld Dreamery, the new name for what was previously known as Noquo Foods, is a Swedish brand out to make mass market plant-based cheese using fermented fava and pea protein.
  • Their first product, the Stockeld Chunk, is a 100% plant-based version of feta that was launched in a selection of cafés and stores in Stockholm earlier this year.
  • The cheese is made using just 7 ingredients, including the protein-rich fava bean. This makes it nut-free, rare in the plant-based cheese market and perfect for those with nut allergies.
  • The inclusion of fava beans help make the cheese nutritionally equivalent to real feta, with about 13% protein content - attracting health-conscious millennial consumers.
  • The company has €3.3m in funding, with €3.25m of that arriving in a single funding round last year.
  • Next, the company plans to use their proprietary blend of proteins, the result of two intense years of R&D, to create a realistic plant-based cream cheese. They also hope to branch out into other alternative cheeses, with Stockeld’s meltable Melt in the pipeline.
Image Credit: Nobell Foods

🇺🇸 Case study: Nobell Foods 

  • San-Fran startup Nobell Foods, meanwhile, is busy pioneering tomorrow’s cheese with its alternative dairy proteins made from soybeans.
  • Nobell’s research shows that 99% of consumers are unwilling to compromise on the taste, cost, melting and stretch of traditional cheese - so their aim is to give the people what they want, without the cows. 
  • So how do they do it? Using a patented technique and with the help of top-quality soybeans, the alternative cheese maker creates dairy proteins, including casein. This is part of what gives all cheese its melty, stretchy goodness - a factor that the company’s engineer founder believes is vital to winning over new customers.
  • What’s more, Nobell’s novel casein-production method is much more efficient, sustainable and cost-effective per acre than raising cows. 
  • This July the company won $75 million in Series B funding, including investment from Robert Downey Jr’s venture capitalist firm. 
  • The company’s plan is to target foodservice first, particularly pizza chains, before selling to consumers in a year or two. 

👍 The good

  • More choice in the alternative cheese sector can really only be a good thing. Consumers put off by previous iterations of animal-free cheese - tasteless and plastic in texture - may be more likely to give it another go with the wealth of options on offer.
  • Of course, it’s also better for people, the planet and animals. Fewer cows means fewer greenhouse gas emissions, while some vegan cheeses are less high in saturates or cholesterol than the ordinary fatty options in the conventional cheese aisle. 
  • And while sales of conventional animal-based cheese are pretty static, sales of animal-free cheese - while still a smaller segment than plant-based milk - are growing. Plant-based cheese grew 43.6% between February 2020 and 2021.

👎 The bad

  • Animal-free cheese is technically challenging to develop due to the complex makeup of dairy cheese - the proteins in cheese and its fermented nature means its much trickier to replicate in vegan form than, say, milk and burgers. 
  • And there’s still work to do when it comes to recreating the kind of stretchy, melty, oozy cheeses - like Cheddar and Monterey Jack - that are used to top burgers or make a mighty slice of grilled cheese. 
  • Price can also be a big sticking point. Developing an animal-free cheese doesn’t come cheap and R&D can swallow up a lot of a startup’s initial funding, so some of this cost needs to be reflected in the end price point. While vegan customers - often millennials with cash to spare, living in urban centres - dying for an ethical block of feta are often willing to stump up the change for higher-priced alt dairy products, companies eventually need to attract a wider customer base - and your average flexitarian might be less willing to pay above and beyond for something that can’t compare with the real thing. 
  • Lastly, if the list above is anything to go by, animal-free cheese is becoming an increasingly crowded space. Brands need a unique selling point and clear messaging to stand out - and stand a chance of convincing not just loyal vegans, but omnivores too. 

 💡The bottom line

  • Thanks to rapidly accelerating technology and rising demand from conscious consumers, now’s a great time to be in the business of alternative cheese. 
  • While there are still hurdles to scale - not least questions of cost and ‘meltiness’ - the future looks cheesily full of possibility.

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🧀 What is it?

  • From hemp seed cheeze to creamy spreads made from almonds, coconut mozzarella and vegan cheese fermented using microbes, the alternative cheese sector is positively oozing. 
  • But that wasn’t always the case: vegan cheesemakers of the last quarter century have tried and - let’s face it - mostly failed to recreate the mouth-watering, oozing, melty qualities of really good cheese. Until pretty recently, cheeses made without cow’s milk were bland and plasticky. And if you wanted them to melt like mozzarella on a pizza? Forget it.

🤔 Tell me more…

  • But the times, they are a’changing. The last five years have seen an explosion in the varieties of vegan cheese on offer. 
  • Propelled by the popularity of other plant-based alternatives (think meat and milk), food startups have turned to cheese as the next ‘big’ thing for plant-based.
  • But it is a trickier nut to crack than plant-based burgers - even though, ironically enough, it is nuts (especially cashews and almonds) that many alt-cheese producers have turned to in their attempts to recreate creamy cheesy spreads and fetas. 
  • Others are using fermentation and microbes to take on the devilishly difficult task of recreating real cheese, tinkering with the genetics of casein and whey to gain melty, gooey glory.

🤷‍♂️Why?

  • Raising dairy cows is, for the most part, not a pretty business. Just as more and more consumers have woken up to the dubious ethics of mass meat manufacturing in recent years, many are now turning their attention to the production of milk and cheese. Alternative cheese makers are banking on this wave of collective consciousness-raising to bring in new customers to the vegan fold, with many startups launched in light of the founder’s own ethical concerns about traditional dairy.  
  • Animal-free cheese is also much easier on the planet. As alt-cheese maker Nobell Foods notes, cheese is one of the worst offenders when it comes to the environment thanks to the methane-emitting habits of dairy cows. In fact, cheese production is responsible for 2% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Meat has already had its animal-free makeover and cheese - a staple food in many countries - is next on the menu. 
  • Brands are also springing up to meet consumer demand. Studies show that over 70% of consumers are keen to try animal-free cheese options - and they’re not just vegans. The alt cheese market is no longer just for diehard PETA supporters; anyone who fancies a break from animal products is encouraged to dip their toes in.

📈 The figures

  • Cheese produced from animal products is of course big global business - standing at about $72 billion in 2019, and expected to grow to $106 billion by 2026.
  • With that in mind, it makes sense that vegan cheese is a rapidly growing segment - it’s already worth $2 billion, but is projected to double in size, reaching $4.5 billion in the next four years.
Source: Statista

🔍 How is it shaping up?

  • First things first: when talking about animal-free cheese, there’s two main categories to distinguish between. The first is plant-based cheese - made with plant-based ingredients like pea protein, aquafaba, soy, hemp or - most ubiquitously - nuts like almonds or cashews. 
  • Up and coming companies in this area include Stockeld Dreamery, New Roots, Les Nouveaux Affineurs, Noosh, I Am Nut OK and Nut Culture - to name just a few of the many, many startups around the world.  
  • Then there’s the companies creating alt cheese not from plants, but from real animal proteins - usually with the help of precision fermentation. Israel’s Remilk, for example, doesn’t use plants to make its alternative dairy products. Using microbial fermentation, the company can exactly replicate animal dairy proteins. This allows for the creation of cheese with the same taste, texture and mouthfeel as the real thing.
  • Other startups working on alternative dairy using precision fermentation include Perfect Day in the US, Israel’s Imagindairy and Formo in Germany. And because many of these startups are using proteins identical to animal-based casein and whey, they can’t call themselves dairy-free. Which means the taste and texture is beginning to stand up to the genuine article - a plus for flexitarians and those who’d rather not say goodbye to their lunchtime cheese toasties.
  • Nations with a storied history of cheesemaking appear to be leading the pack when it comes to plant-based and alternative cheese options. The Netherlands, for example, is well-known for its delectable cheeses from Gouda to Edam, and the country can now boast a wealth of animal-free cheese options to please Dutch vegans too. Check out Innofood Company, Max & Bien, Mr & Mrs Watson, Rosie & Riffy and plantaardige smaakmakers - a pretty awe-inspiring selection for such a small country. 
  • Meanwhile, to the west, Les Nouveaux Affineurs are continuing the tradition of gourmet French cheese-making with their artisanal takes on classic Gallic cheeses.
  • Many startups are choosing to specialise in one type of cheese to begin with, as a way to keep costs down and target a specific demographic. Stockeld Dreamery’s Chunk vegan cheese, for example, is designed as an alternative to feta while Numu makes animal-free mozzarella from coconut oil and soy. This sort of strategy makes sense when you consider that, often, a specific recipe or occasion calls for a specific cheese. Rather than trying to spread themselves too thinly, honing in on a distinct alternative option allows vegan cheese makers to do one or two things really well. 
  • The wealth of options on the market - particularly in the US, a leader in the segment - is clear to see. Wheels, slices, pre-grated pizza cheese, blocks, wedges and soft cheese spreads - all are readily available in animal-free form. 

👀 Who? (90 companies in this space)

Image Credit: Stockeld Dreamery

🇸🇪 Case study: Stockeld Dreamery

  • Stockeld Dreamery, the new name for what was previously known as Noquo Foods, is a Swedish brand out to make mass market plant-based cheese using fermented fava and pea protein.
  • Their first product, the Stockeld Chunk, is a 100% plant-based version of feta that was launched in a selection of cafés and stores in Stockholm earlier this year.
  • The cheese is made using just 7 ingredients, including the protein-rich fava bean. This makes it nut-free, rare in the plant-based cheese market and perfect for those with nut allergies.
  • The inclusion of fava beans help make the cheese nutritionally equivalent to real feta, with about 13% protein content - attracting health-conscious millennial consumers.
  • The company has €3.3m in funding, with €3.25m of that arriving in a single funding round last year.
  • Next, the company plans to use their proprietary blend of proteins, the result of two intense years of R&D, to create a realistic plant-based cream cheese. They also hope to branch out into other alternative cheeses, with Stockeld’s meltable Melt in the pipeline.
Image Credit: Nobell Foods

🇺🇸 Case study: Nobell Foods 

  • San-Fran startup Nobell Foods, meanwhile, is busy pioneering tomorrow’s cheese with its alternative dairy proteins made from soybeans.
  • Nobell’s research shows that 99% of consumers are unwilling to compromise on the taste, cost, melting and stretch of traditional cheese - so their aim is to give the people what they want, without the cows. 
  • So how do they do it? Using a patented technique and with the help of top-quality soybeans, the alternative cheese maker creates dairy proteins, including casein. This is part of what gives all cheese its melty, stretchy goodness - a factor that the company’s engineer founder believes is vital to winning over new customers.
  • What’s more, Nobell’s novel casein-production method is much more efficient, sustainable and cost-effective per acre than raising cows. 
  • This July the company won $75 million in Series B funding, including investment from Robert Downey Jr’s venture capitalist firm. 
  • The company’s plan is to target foodservice first, particularly pizza chains, before selling to consumers in a year or two. 

👍 The good

  • More choice in the alternative cheese sector can really only be a good thing. Consumers put off by previous iterations of animal-free cheese - tasteless and plastic in texture - may be more likely to give it another go with the wealth of options on offer.
  • Of course, it’s also better for people, the planet and animals. Fewer cows means fewer greenhouse gas emissions, while some vegan cheeses are less high in saturates or cholesterol than the ordinary fatty options in the conventional cheese aisle. 
  • And while sales of conventional animal-based cheese are pretty static, sales of animal-free cheese - while still a smaller segment than plant-based milk - are growing. Plant-based cheese grew 43.6% between February 2020 and 2021.

👎 The bad

  • Animal-free cheese is technically challenging to develop due to the complex makeup of dairy cheese - the proteins in cheese and its fermented nature means its much trickier to replicate in vegan form than, say, milk and burgers. 
  • And there’s still work to do when it comes to recreating the kind of stretchy, melty, oozy cheeses - like Cheddar and Monterey Jack - that are used to top burgers or make a mighty slice of grilled cheese. 
  • Price can also be a big sticking point. Developing an animal-free cheese doesn’t come cheap and R&D can swallow up a lot of a startup’s initial funding, so some of this cost needs to be reflected in the end price point. While vegan customers - often millennials with cash to spare, living in urban centres - dying for an ethical block of feta are often willing to stump up the change for higher-priced alt dairy products, companies eventually need to attract a wider customer base - and your average flexitarian might be less willing to pay above and beyond for something that can’t compare with the real thing. 
  • Lastly, if the list above is anything to go by, animal-free cheese is becoming an increasingly crowded space. Brands need a unique selling point and clear messaging to stand out - and stand a chance of convincing not just loyal vegans, but omnivores too. 

 💡The bottom line

  • Thanks to rapidly accelerating technology and rising demand from conscious consumers, now’s a great time to be in the business of alternative cheese. 
  • While there are still hurdles to scale - not least questions of cost and ‘meltiness’ - the future looks cheesily full of possibility.

How did you like today's Trends?

Love it 😁 Meh 😐 Hate it 🙁

🧀 What is it?

  • From hemp seed cheeze to creamy spreads made from almonds, coconut mozzarella and vegan cheese fermented using microbes, the alternative cheese sector is positively oozing. 
  • But that wasn’t always the case: vegan cheesemakers of the last quarter century have tried and - let’s face it - mostly failed to recreate the mouth-watering, oozing, melty qualities of really good cheese. Until pretty recently, cheeses made without cow’s milk were bland and plasticky. And if you wanted them to melt like mozzarella on a pizza? Forget it.

🤔 Tell me more…

  • But the times, they are a’changing. The last five years have seen an explosion in the varieties of vegan cheese on offer. 
  • Propelled by the popularity of other plant-based alternatives (think meat and milk), food startups have turned to cheese as the next ‘big’ thing for plant-based.
  • But it is a trickier nut to crack than plant-based burgers - even though, ironically enough, it is nuts (especially cashews and almonds) that many alt-cheese producers have turned to in their attempts to recreate creamy cheesy spreads and fetas. 
  • Others are using fermentation and microbes to take on the devilishly difficult task of recreating real cheese, tinkering with the genetics of casein and whey to gain melty, gooey glory.

🤷‍♂️Why?

  • Raising dairy cows is, for the most part, not a pretty business. Just as more and more consumers have woken up to the dubious ethics of mass meat manufacturing in recent years, many are now turning their attention to the production of milk and cheese. Alternative cheese makers are banking on this wave of collective consciousness-raising to bring in new customers to the vegan fold, with many startups launched in light of the founder’s own ethical concerns about traditional dairy.  
  • Animal-free cheese is also much easier on the planet. As alt-cheese maker Nobell Foods notes, cheese is one of the worst offenders when it comes to the environment thanks to the methane-emitting habits of dairy cows. In fact, cheese production is responsible for 2% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Meat has already had its animal-free makeover and cheese - a staple food in many countries - is next on the menu. 
  • Brands are also springing up to meet consumer demand. Studies show that over 70% of consumers are keen to try animal-free cheese options - and they’re not just vegans. The alt cheese market is no longer just for diehard PETA supporters; anyone who fancies a break from animal products is encouraged to dip their toes in.

📈 The figures

  • Cheese produced from animal products is of course big global business - standing at about $72 billion in 2019, and expected to grow to $106 billion by 2026.
  • With that in mind, it makes sense that vegan cheese is a rapidly growing segment - it’s already worth $2 billion, but is projected to double in size, reaching $4.5 billion in the next four years.
Source: Statista

🔍 How is it shaping up?

  • First things first: when talking about animal-free cheese, there’s two main categories to distinguish between. The first is plant-based cheese - made with plant-based ingredients like pea protein, aquafaba, soy, hemp or - most ubiquitously - nuts like almonds or cashews. 
  • Up and coming companies in this area include Stockeld Dreamery, New Roots, Les Nouveaux Affineurs, Noosh, I Am Nut OK and Nut Culture - to name just a few of the many, many startups around the world.  
  • Then there’s the companies creating alt cheese not from plants, but from real animal proteins - usually with the help of precision fermentation. Israel’s Remilk, for example, doesn’t use plants to make its alternative dairy products. Using microbial fermentation, the company can exactly replicate animal dairy proteins. This allows for the creation of cheese with the same taste, texture and mouthfeel as the real thing.
  • Other startups working on alternative dairy using precision fermentation include Perfect Day in the US, Israel’s Imagindairy and Formo in Germany. And because many of these startups are using proteins identical to animal-based casein and whey, they can’t call themselves dairy-free. Which means the taste and texture is beginning to stand up to the genuine article - a plus for flexitarians and those who’d rather not say goodbye to their lunchtime cheese toasties.
  • Nations with a storied history of cheesemaking appear to be leading the pack when it comes to plant-based and alternative cheese options. The Netherlands, for example, is well-known for its delectable cheeses from Gouda to Edam, and the country can now boast a wealth of animal-free cheese options to please Dutch vegans too. Check out Innofood Company, Max & Bien, Mr & Mrs Watson, Rosie & Riffy and plantaardige smaakmakers - a pretty awe-inspiring selection for such a small country. 
  • Meanwhile, to the west, Les Nouveaux Affineurs are continuing the tradition of gourmet French cheese-making with their artisanal takes on classic Gallic cheeses.
  • Many startups are choosing to specialise in one type of cheese to begin with, as a way to keep costs down and target a specific demographic. Stockeld Dreamery’s Chunk vegan cheese, for example, is designed as an alternative to feta while Numu makes animal-free mozzarella from coconut oil and soy. This sort of strategy makes sense when you consider that, often, a specific recipe or occasion calls for a specific cheese. Rather than trying to spread themselves too thinly, honing in on a distinct alternative option allows vegan cheese makers to do one or two things really well. 
  • The wealth of options on the market - particularly in the US, a leader in the segment - is clear to see. Wheels, slices, pre-grated pizza cheese, blocks, wedges and soft cheese spreads - all are readily available in animal-free form. 

👀 Who? (90 companies in this space)

Image Credit: Stockeld Dreamery

🇸🇪 Case study: Stockeld Dreamery

  • Stockeld Dreamery, the new name for what was previously known as Noquo Foods, is a Swedish brand out to make mass market plant-based cheese using fermented fava and pea protein.
  • Their first product, the Stockeld Chunk, is a 100% plant-based version of feta that was launched in a selection of cafés and stores in Stockholm earlier this year.
  • The cheese is made using just 7 ingredients, including the protein-rich fava bean. This makes it nut-free, rare in the plant-based cheese market and perfect for those with nut allergies.
  • The inclusion of fava beans help make the cheese nutritionally equivalent to real feta, with about 13% protein content - attracting health-conscious millennial consumers.
  • The company has €3.3m in funding, with €3.25m of that arriving in a single funding round last year.
  • Next, the company plans to use their proprietary blend of proteins, the result of two intense years of R&D, to create a realistic plant-based cream cheese. They also hope to branch out into other alternative cheeses, with Stockeld’s meltable Melt in the pipeline.
Image Credit: Nobell Foods

🇺🇸 Case study: Nobell Foods 

  • San-Fran startup Nobell Foods, meanwhile, is busy pioneering tomorrow’s cheese with its alternative dairy proteins made from soybeans.
  • Nobell’s research shows that 99% of consumers are unwilling to compromise on the taste, cost, melting and stretch of traditional cheese - so their aim is to give the people what they want, without the cows. 
  • So how do they do it? Using a patented technique and with the help of top-quality soybeans, the alternative cheese maker creates dairy proteins, including casein. This is part of what gives all cheese its melty, stretchy goodness - a factor that the company’s engineer founder believes is vital to winning over new customers.
  • What’s more, Nobell’s novel casein-production method is much more efficient, sustainable and cost-effective per acre than raising cows. 
  • This July the company won $75 million in Series B funding, including investment from Robert Downey Jr’s venture capitalist firm. 
  • The company’s plan is to target foodservice first, particularly pizza chains, before selling to consumers in a year or two. 

👍 The good

  • More choice in the alternative cheese sector can really only be a good thing. Consumers put off by previous iterations of animal-free cheese - tasteless and plastic in texture - may be more likely to give it another go with the wealth of options on offer.
  • Of course, it’s also better for people, the planet and animals. Fewer cows means fewer greenhouse gas emissions, while some vegan cheeses are less high in saturates or cholesterol than the ordinary fatty options in the conventional cheese aisle. 
  • And while sales of conventional animal-based cheese are pretty static, sales of animal-free cheese - while still a smaller segment than plant-based milk - are growing. Plant-based cheese grew 43.6% between February 2020 and 2021.

👎 The bad

  • Animal-free cheese is technically challenging to develop due to the complex makeup of dairy cheese - the proteins in cheese and its fermented nature means its much trickier to replicate in vegan form than, say, milk and burgers. 
  • And there’s still work to do when it comes to recreating the kind of stretchy, melty, oozy cheeses - like Cheddar and Monterey Jack - that are used to top burgers or make a mighty slice of grilled cheese. 
  • Price can also be a big sticking point. Developing an animal-free cheese doesn’t come cheap and R&D can swallow up a lot of a startup’s initial funding, so some of this cost needs to be reflected in the end price point. While vegan customers - often millennials with cash to spare, living in urban centres - dying for an ethical block of feta are often willing to stump up the change for higher-priced alt dairy products, companies eventually need to attract a wider customer base - and your average flexitarian might be less willing to pay above and beyond for something that can’t compare with the real thing. 
  • Lastly, if the list above is anything to go by, animal-free cheese is becoming an increasingly crowded space. Brands need a unique selling point and clear messaging to stand out - and stand a chance of convincing not just loyal vegans, but omnivores too. 

 💡The bottom line

  • Thanks to rapidly accelerating technology and rising demand from conscious consumers, now’s a great time to be in the business of alternative cheese. 
  • While there are still hurdles to scale - not least questions of cost and ‘meltiness’ - the future looks cheesily full of possibility.

How did you like today's Trends?

Love it 😁 Meh 😐 Hate it 🙁

🧀 What is it?

  • From hemp seed cheeze to creamy spreads made from almonds, coconut mozzarella and vegan cheese fermented using microbes, the alternative cheese sector is positively oozing. 
  • But that wasn’t always the case: vegan cheesemakers of the last quarter century have tried and - let’s face it - mostly failed to recreate the mouth-watering, oozing, melty qualities of really good cheese. Until pretty recently, cheeses made without cow’s milk were bland and plasticky. And if you wanted them to melt like mozzarella on a pizza? Forget it.

🤔 Tell me more…

  • But the times, they are a’changing. The last five years have seen an explosion in the varieties of vegan cheese on offer. 
  • Propelled by the popularity of other plant-based alternatives (think meat and milk), food startups have turned to cheese as the next ‘big’ thing for plant-based.
  • But it is a trickier nut to crack than plant-based burgers - even though, ironically enough, it is nuts (especially cashews and almonds) that many alt-cheese producers have turned to in their attempts to recreate creamy cheesy spreads and fetas. 
  • Others are using fermentation and microbes to take on the devilishly difficult task of recreating real cheese, tinkering with the genetics of casein and whey to gain melty, gooey glory.

🤷‍♂️Why?

  • Raising dairy cows is, for the most part, not a pretty business. Just as more and more consumers have woken up to the dubious ethics of mass meat manufacturing in recent years, many are now turning their attention to the production of milk and cheese. Alternative cheese makers are banking on this wave of collective consciousness-raising to bring in new customers to the vegan fold, with many startups launched in light of the founder’s own ethical concerns about traditional dairy.  
  • Animal-free cheese is also much easier on the planet. As alt-cheese maker Nobell Foods notes, cheese is one of the worst offenders when it comes to the environment thanks to the methane-emitting habits of dairy cows. In fact, cheese production is responsible for 2% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Meat has already had its animal-free makeover and cheese - a staple food in many countries - is next on the menu. 
  • Brands are also springing up to meet consumer demand. Studies show that over 70% of consumers are keen to try animal-free cheese options - and they’re not just vegans. The alt cheese market is no longer just for diehard PETA supporters; anyone who fancies a break from animal products is encouraged to dip their toes in.

📈 The figures

  • Cheese produced from animal products is of course big global business - standing at about $72 billion in 2019, and expected to grow to $106 billion by 2026.
  • With that in mind, it makes sense that vegan cheese is a rapidly growing segment - it’s already worth $2 billion, but is projected to double in size, reaching $4.5 billion in the next four years.
Source: Statista

🔍 How is it shaping up?

  • First things first: when talking about animal-free cheese, there’s two main categories to distinguish between. The first is plant-based cheese - made with plant-based ingredients like pea protein, aquafaba, soy, hemp or - most ubiquitously - nuts like almonds or cashews. 
  • Up and coming companies in this area include Stockeld Dreamery, New Roots, Les Nouveaux Affineurs, Noosh, I Am Nut OK and Nut Culture - to name just a few of the many, many startups around the world.  
  • Then there’s the companies creating alt cheese not from plants, but from real animal proteins - usually with the help of precision fermentation. Israel’s Remilk, for example, doesn’t use plants to make its alternative dairy products. Using microbial fermentation, the company can exactly replicate animal dairy proteins. This allows for the creation of cheese with the same taste, texture and mouthfeel as the real thing.
  • Other startups working on alternative dairy using precision fermentation include Perfect Day in the US, Israel’s Imagindairy and Formo in Germany. And because many of these startups are using proteins identical to animal-based casein and whey, they can’t call themselves dairy-free. Which means the taste and texture is beginning to stand up to the genuine article - a plus for flexitarians and those who’d rather not say goodbye to their lunchtime cheese toasties.
  • Nations with a storied history of cheesemaking appear to be leading the pack when it comes to plant-based and alternative cheese options. The Netherlands, for example, is well-known for its delectable cheeses from Gouda to Edam, and the country can now boast a wealth of animal-free cheese options to please Dutch vegans too. Check out Innofood Company, Max & Bien, Mr & Mrs Watson, Rosie & Riffy and plantaardige smaakmakers - a pretty awe-inspiring selection for such a small country. 
  • Meanwhile, to the west, Les Nouveaux Affineurs are continuing the tradition of gourmet French cheese-making with their artisanal takes on classic Gallic cheeses.
  • Many startups are choosing to specialise in one type of cheese to begin with, as a way to keep costs down and target a specific demographic. Stockeld Dreamery’s Chunk vegan cheese, for example, is designed as an alternative to feta while Numu makes animal-free mozzarella from coconut oil and soy. This sort of strategy makes sense when you consider that, often, a specific recipe or occasion calls for a specific cheese. Rather than trying to spread themselves too thinly, honing in on a distinct alternative option allows vegan cheese makers to do one or two things really well. 
  • The wealth of options on the market - particularly in the US, a leader in the segment - is clear to see. Wheels, slices, pre-grated pizza cheese, blocks, wedges and soft cheese spreads - all are readily available in animal-free form. 

👀 Who? (90 companies in this space)

Image Credit: Stockeld Dreamery

🇸🇪 Case study: Stockeld Dreamery

  • Stockeld Dreamery, the new name for what was previously known as Noquo Foods, is a Swedish brand out to make mass market plant-based cheese using fermented fava and pea protein.
  • Their first product, the Stockeld Chunk, is a 100% plant-based version of feta that was launched in a selection of cafés and stores in Stockholm earlier this year.
  • The cheese is made using just 7 ingredients, including the protein-rich fava bean. This makes it nut-free, rare in the plant-based cheese market and perfect for those with nut allergies.
  • The inclusion of fava beans help make the cheese nutritionally equivalent to real feta, with about 13% protein content - attracting health-conscious millennial consumers.
  • The company has €3.3m in funding, with €3.25m of that arriving in a single funding round last year.
  • Next, the company plans to use their proprietary blend of proteins, the result of two intense years of R&D, to create a realistic plant-based cream cheese. They also hope to branch out into other alternative cheeses, with Stockeld’s meltable Melt in the pipeline.
Image Credit: Nobell Foods

🇺🇸 Case study: Nobell Foods 

  • San-Fran startup Nobell Foods, meanwhile, is busy pioneering tomorrow’s cheese with its alternative dairy proteins made from soybeans.
  • Nobell’s research shows that 99% of consumers are unwilling to compromise on the taste, cost, melting and stretch of traditional cheese - so their aim is to give the people what they want, without the cows. 
  • So how do they do it? Using a patented technique and with the help of top-quality soybeans, the alternative cheese maker creates dairy proteins, including casein. This is part of what gives all cheese its melty, stretchy goodness - a factor that the company’s engineer founder believes is vital to winning over new customers.
  • What’s more, Nobell’s novel casein-production method is much more efficient, sustainable and cost-effective per acre than raising cows. 
  • This July the company won $75 million in Series B funding, including investment from Robert Downey Jr’s venture capitalist firm. 
  • The company’s plan is to target foodservice first, particularly pizza chains, before selling to consumers in a year or two. 

👍 The good

  • More choice in the alternative cheese sector can really only be a good thing. Consumers put off by previous iterations of animal-free cheese - tasteless and plastic in texture - may be more likely to give it another go with the wealth of options on offer.
  • Of course, it’s also better for people, the planet and animals. Fewer cows means fewer greenhouse gas emissions, while some vegan cheeses are less high in saturates or cholesterol than the ordinary fatty options in the conventional cheese aisle. 
  • And while sales of conventional animal-based cheese are pretty static, sales of animal-free cheese - while still a smaller segment than plant-based milk - are growing. Plant-based cheese grew 43.6% between February 2020 and 2021.

👎 The bad

  • Animal-free cheese is technically challenging to develop due to the complex makeup of dairy cheese - the proteins in cheese and its fermented nature means its much trickier to replicate in vegan form than, say, milk and burgers. 
  • And there’s still work to do when it comes to recreating the kind of stretchy, melty, oozy cheeses - like Cheddar and Monterey Jack - that are used to top burgers or make a mighty slice of grilled cheese. 
  • Price can also be a big sticking point. Developing an animal-free cheese doesn’t come cheap and R&D can swallow up a lot of a startup’s initial funding, so some of this cost needs to be reflected in the end price point. While vegan customers - often millennials with cash to spare, living in urban centres - dying for an ethical block of feta are often willing to stump up the change for higher-priced alt dairy products, companies eventually need to attract a wider customer base - and your average flexitarian might be less willing to pay above and beyond for something that can’t compare with the real thing. 
  • Lastly, if the list above is anything to go by, animal-free cheese is becoming an increasingly crowded space. Brands need a unique selling point and clear messaging to stand out - and stand a chance of convincing not just loyal vegans, but omnivores too. 

 💡The bottom line

  • Thanks to rapidly accelerating technology and rising demand from conscious consumers, now’s a great time to be in the business of alternative cheese. 
  • While there are still hurdles to scale - not least questions of cost and ‘meltiness’ - the future looks cheesily full of possibility.

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