Exploring the vegan cheese opportunity

26 May 2023, 08:27 AM
  • It may be far from traditional, but plant-based cheese innovations are taking the world by storm finds Natasha Spencer-Jolliffe

Exploring the vegan cheese opportunity

Exciting cheese innovations in taste, ingredients, production methods and top geographic regions worldwide are emerging. Vegan cheese is a significant area we can expect to grow in uptake. Cheese producers are making dairy-mimicking proteins to replace traditional animal- based products. Consumers want products that reflect their
eco-consciousness and present sustainability credentials, making vegan alternatives a sought-after choice.

Plant-based dairy alternatives have continued as a popular trend. Almost a third (32%) of British shoppers consumed plant-based alternative milk in 2021, Mintel research shows. Vegan manufacturers have turned their attention to replicating dairy, with 26% of dairy cheese eaters and buyers decreasing their intake for environmental reasons, Mintel adds.

Selling plant-based
Indie retailers, such as UK-based La Fauxmagerie, are bringing vegan cheese to the mainstream with quality and sensory properties to rival their traditional animal-based cheese.

Self-proclaimed as the UK’s first plant-based cheesemonger, which opened in 2019, the producer ferments cashews or almonds and combines the ingredients with white miso or yeast to age them and create a savoury cheese-like taste. Indie retailers can source and stock vegan cheese options that satisfy consumers’ environmental concerns and provide welcome flavours.

They can also offer a broad selection and market these to cheese consumers’ love of luxurious, experiential and occasion-based eating. If they can successfully do this, vegan cheeses have the potential to help indie retailers showcase the best varieties.

What’s next for plant-based cheese?
According to Mintel’s report, vegan cheeses are set to play a “limited” role in the cheese market, but with many businesses entering the space in recent years, visibility and availability is seeing a boost.

“This new product development (NPD) comes across, at first glance, as warranted, as 37% of people say there should be a greater variety of these products available in supermarkets,” comments a Mintel spokesperson. “However, just 20% of people who eat and buy cheese name such variants as one of their top three choices to reduce the environmental impact of their cheese usage, including just 41% of those calling for a wider offering.”

Catering to demanding palates is key to the success of plant-based cheese, believes Mintel. “Looking ahead, ensuring that plant-based variants deliver on the eating experience will be key, including in key occasions like with bread and as an ingredient in hot meals. The strong view of flavourful cheeses as making meals more interesting underlines the pivotal importance of this.”

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