Fridges across Europe and the US are filled with almond drinks, oat milk and plant-based meat substitutes. So where is the imitation cheese? Until it starts to taste more like the real thing, it is likely to stay out of the kitchen.
The global vegan cheese market was worth US$1.9 billion last year, according to Future Market Insights. That is just a tiny fraction of the dairy-alternatives industry and the US$121 billion in real cheese. Much of it is mozzarella or cheddar — used in cooking where the taste and feel can be disguised, rather than enjoyed on its own or accompanied by a nice chardonnay.
A new breed of entrepreneurs is trying to change that by ridding fake cheese of its rubbery reputation and getting in on the boom in plant-based burgers, milk, yogurt and ice cream.
One of them is New Roots, headquartered at the foot of the Swiss Alps — the home of fondue and raclette. Founded only four years ago, the 15-employee company supplies about 73 tonnes of imitation camembert, cream cheese and other products annually as millennial consumers embrace vegan diets.
Most faux cheesemakers just add flavors and enhancers to a milk substitute mass to mimic the taste and texture of cheese.
However, New Roots and France’s Tomm’Pousse are among the first companies pioneering a new way to make plant-based alternatives using traditional cheesemaking methods. Tomm’Pousse mixes cashews and water into a puree, while New Roots makes cashew milk. Both add probiotic cultures for fermentation and both ripen their product like real cheese.
“I wanted to keep the Swiss tradition alive and not just create an analogous product mixed together from 20 different synthetic ingredients,” New Roots founder Freddy Hunziker said in an interview at the company’s factory in Thun, where the windowsills are lined with another millennial favorite, cactuses in terracotta pots. “And it has really taken off.”
New Roots is just one of hundreds of start-ups that have popped up in Europe and North America to try to revolutionize the category.
In the US, Miyoko’s Kitchen supplies about 12,000 stores. Fatburger Corp has teamed up with Canada’s Daiya Foods Inc to offer a 100 percent plant-based cheeseburger, pairing Daiya’s cheddar slices with the Impossible Burger.
European food giants are starting to catch on. Nestle SA has developed alternatives to cheese and bacon, designed to complement its existing plant-based burger patties. French yogurt maker Danone SA said it plans to expand its vegan cheese offering after entering the category with its acquisition of soy milk producer WhiteWave.
Kraft Heinz Co, whose Singles and Velveeta brands have been struggling, this year led a US$3.5 million investment in biotech start-up New Culture, which is developing lab-grown vegan cheese by cultivating dairy proteins without the use of animals.
New Culture is taking aim at the biggest challenge for alternative cheeses: There is no plant-based substitute for the casein proteins in cow’s milk that has the same texture. Efforts to create substitutes with oils, starches and artificial flavorings have mostly fallen flat, holding back the growth of vegan diets.
“Most people are afraid to go vegan,” according to a study by researcher Future Market Insights, because “they cannot live without cheese and fast-food products such as burgers, pizzas and other foods in which cheese is an essential ingredient.”
Another hurdle is pricing. New Roots’ most expensive camembert alternative sells at 11.50 Swiss francs (US$11.55) per 120g, or more than three times as much as the regular variety. Prices are high partly because vegan cheesemakers do not enjoy the government subsidies that many dairy farmers receive. Plant-based offerings are also made on a smaller scale and face less competition than alternative milk or yogurt.
As demand for alternatives grows, new shops, such as La Fauxmagerie in London, have opened. Chains like Coop in Switzerland, Planet Organic in the UK and British branches of Amazon.com Inc’s Whole Foods are stocking New Roots’ alternatives.
New Roots has moved to bigger sites three times in the past four years and produces about 10,000 pieces of imitation cheese a week. The company, previously financed via bank loans, this year won its first outside investor in private equity firm Blue Horizon, which also backs Impossible Foods Inc and Beyond Meat Inc.
Prices of alternative cheese could come down as multinational companies seek to expand their plant-based portfolios. After Danone completed its US$10 billion WhiteWave purchase in 2017, Nestle acquired veggie companies Sweet Earth and Terrafertil. Unilever jumped on the bandwagon with its purchase of the Vegetarian Butcher.
Both New Roots and Tomm’Pousse said they have been approached by big food companies with takeover and collaboration offers, which they have rebuffed.
Softbank Group Corp plans to keep a stake in the chip designer Arm Ltd, even if it sells a partial interest to Nvidia Corp, the Nikkei reported. The companies are negotiating terms, the newspaper reported, citing sources. Softbank might take a stake in Nvidia after it buys Arm, the report said. Nvidia and Arm might also merge through a share swap, and Softbank would become a major shareholder in the combined company, it said. The two parties aim to reach a deal in the next few weeks, the sources said, asking not to be identified because the information is private. Nvidia is the
MOVING FROM CHINA? The article did not name the company, but Foxconn, Wistron and Pegatron were among firms chosen for a production-linked incentive plan in India An Apple Inc vendor is looking at shifting six production lines to India from China, which could result in US$5 billion of iPhone exports from the South Asian nation, the Times of India reported, citing people familiar with the matter who it did not identify. The establishment of the facility would create about 55,000 jobs over about a year, the newspaper reported, not naming the Apple vendor. It would also cater to the domestic market and expand operations to include tablets and laptops, the newspaper reported. Samsung Electronics Co and Apple’s assembly partners are among 22 companies that have pledged 110 billion
Gold surged to a fresh record on Friday, fueled by US dollar weakness and low interest rates, while silver headed for its best month since 1979. Spot bullion is up more than 10 percent this month, as US real yields lingered near record lows. While the ferocity of rallies in gold and silver cooled in the middle of the week, most market watchers predict there might be more gains ahead. Both metals have added about 30 percent this year, with gold and silver exchange-traded funds boosting holdings to a record, as concern about the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic fuels demand for
‘ONE-STOCK SHOW’: Turnover hit an all-time high as TSMC continued to determine the local market’s direction and surpassed Visa in market capitalization The TAIEX early yesterday hit an all-time intraday high on the back of soaring Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC, 台積電) shares, before tumbling back to the previous day’s close as the contract chipmaker could not single-handedly prop up the index. The TAIEX rose more than 400 points in the first 20 minutes of trading to hit a record 13,031.7 points, but later pared its gains to close down 0.01 percent at 12,586.73. Turnover was NT$343.252 billion (US$11.63 billion), the highest in the Taiwan Stock Exchange’s history. TSMC continued to dictate the market’s direction, as its early surge by the daily