Dairy-free Alternative Cheese in a Huge Demand
Updated: Nov 21, 2022
Insight into different food tech startups in the cheese sector
As voices for animal welfare and criticisms over greenhouse gas emissions have arisen, dairy-free cheese is now increasingly in demand. According to the San Jose, a CA-based company, the cheese sector is the 3rd largest contributor of greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture sources after beef and lamb. San Jose states that "Producing just one pound of cheese requires 16 bathtubs full of fresh water, releases as much CO2 as burning 40 pounds of coal, and requires the same land needed to grow 300 pounds of potatoes."
While the technology itself could have enabled humans to invent non-diary cheese decades ago, we had not stepped into this big step just because the public did not ask for it. But now that the demand for vegan cheese is growing at a fast pace, many food corporations and food tech startups are putting their hopes up.
Today, I hope to explore some of the impressive startups that work towards thriving at selling plant-based cheese.
Willicroft is a vegan cheese substitute business in Amsterdam founded by Brad Vanstone in 2017. Brad's childhood experience of helping out his grandparents' dairy farm, and switching to a plant-based diet yet struggling to give up cheese inspired the company to combine age-old techniques with high-quality assorted white beans, such as haricot and cannellini.
Willicroft currently offers five products: Young Dutch, Original Fondue, Original Sauce, Italian Aged and Greek White. Each of these plant-based cheeses is different in taste and use, and some imitate gouda, parmesan, fondue and even a sauce for macaroni cheese.
While Willicroft's products are mainly available in the Netherlands, overseas expansion is now continuing, with plans to launch in Germany before the end of 2022. The firm's products are already on sale in the UK at the seven branches of Amazon's Whole Foods chain, and it is looking to add another UK supermarket to its roster.
2. Grounded Foods
Grounded Foods was founded in Los Angeles in 2019. Aiming to produce sustainable plant-based cheese from natural ingredients, without cutting costs by using unnecessary flavor enhancers or cheap fillers, the company developed a fermentation process that leverages cauliflower and hemp and landed on the market last year. According to Grounded, hemp is one of the most environmentally resilient crops on the planet. Its plant-based cheeses are also popular among people with allergies as they are nut-free and soy-free.
Grounded now provides customers with three products: Marinated Hemp Seed Goat Cheese, Hemp Seed Cream Cheese, and Cheese Free Cheese Sauce.
Despite only landing on the market last year, Grounded Foods' vegan cheeses are now available all over the US.
3. Change Foods
Similar to Grounded Foods, Change Foods is an Australian-Californian animal-free cheese and dairy products startup established in 2019. Change Foods figured out how to reinvent casein, the main dairy protein in cheese. According to the company, the precision fermentation technology opened a way for consumers to continue enjoying cheese without the need to exploit cows and without the health concerns of lactose, hormones, and antibiotics that come with consuming traditional dairy.
In February this year, the company secured $12 million in a seed extension fundraising round, bringing its total company seed funding to more than $15.3 million. Moreover, it announced two strategic collaborations with Big Food players Upfield and Sigma. However, like many other companies in the same industry, Change Foods finds its expensive manufacturing cost and gaining consumer interest another challenge.
Overall, as plant-based diets are becoming increasingly popular, many startups are now inventing and selling their original alternatives to traditional dairy cheese with varieties of choices for high-quality taste and texture. The public spotlight on sustainability in addition to the wide availability of vegan cheese is likely to grow even more in the coming years.