- Ami Deane of Tyne Chease tells us how the market for cheese alternatives has developed
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Tyne Chease Ltd is a small business run by myself and my husband, based in the North East of England. Our dedicated staff make each product by hand, using organic cashew nuts. All our products are cultured and aged to give an authentic ‘cheesy’ tang. They are also gluten-free, soya-free, GMO free and raw vegan. We pride ourselves on the few ingredients in each product, all of which are 100% natural and preservative-free.
We try to use organic ingredients where possible and try to use only eco-friendly packaging, with our signature poplar wood boxes being a major keystone to our brand. When I first launched Tyne Chease in Nov 2014, there were no other artisan vegan ‘cheese’ companies in the UK currently trading. The only vegan cheese alternatives available were highly processed soya or coconut oil-based cheeses that attempted to replicate a melty dairy cheese. I wanted to do something different; to create a healthy cultured vegan cheese that people could enjoy as part of a cheeseboard with that authentic cheesy tang. Over the years we have changed our recipes and flavour range to make our products more accessible to customers with certain allergies and dietary requirements, and are continuing to research new production methods and ingredients that will allow us to cater for even more allergy-sufferers.
In the years since our inception there have been more artisan vegan cheese companies launching, which just goes to show how this market and veganism in general is growing in both popularity and awareness. If I’m being honest, very few people, other than the ‘hardcore’ vegans of the UK knew anything about the type of ‘chease’ we were producing. Cashew-based vegan cheese alternatives were growing in popularity in the US, yet it was still a market that was, in the most part, unexplored. However, despite a general lack of awareness of what our product was, the reception by
customers at festivals and our trade customers was phenomenal. When I first created the ‘chease’ I took it to festivals to gauge interest with samples and was almost immediately taken aback by the level of interest and demand for such a product. I think the UK was more than ready for an artisan vegan cheese alternative to hit the market.
As the vegan cheese alternative industry grows we are realising that veganism in general is rapidly becoming more popular, and we are continuing to expand to try and supply the exponentially increasing demand. Even with such an amazing variety of cheese alternatives on the market our sales are on the up – showing what an amazing market it is to be in today. Back in 2014 when we first launched, the niche industry of artisan vegan cheese alternatives didn’t really exist, so there were a lot of hurdles we had to overcome in terms of legislation and labelling to comply with Food Standards in the UK. Now, we are surprised at how both the market and industry standards have accepted our products, with more competitors popping up every year.
With this increase in availability, it is much harder for any vegan cheese company to stand out. As the market becomes more saturated, businesses will have a challenging road ahead to develop stand out products. We use a combination of our range and uniqueness of flavours, and natural, eye-catching packaging to stay at the front end of the industry and retain our market share.