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The dairy-free cheese alternative market is huge and it’s growing fast. Analysts expect the global plant-based cheese segment to double from its current US$2.7 billion to over US$4.5 billion by 2025, and with as many as 4 in 10 consumers worldwide now flexitarians, even big food corporations like Bel Brands to Danone jumping to launch their own animal-free cheeses.
But the majority of brands on the market are offering alternatives based on nuts, such as cashews* and almonds*. There’s now a new crop of companies looking to do something different, ditching nut-based recipes for unusual ingredients like cauliflower, sunflower seeds, fava beans and more, to create their just-as-delicious animal-free cheeses. Let’s take a look at five startups who are changing the game.
Grounded Foods is all-in on ugly cauliflower and hemp
Los Angeles-based Grounded Foods makes their nut-free, soy-free, plant-based cheeses out of cauliflower and hemp seeds. What’s more, they source “ugly” ones from local farms to help cut down on food waste and ensure their products are as sustainable as possible. Just landed on the market in March, the startup’s vegan and keto-friendly range boasts three products: Marinated Hemp Seed Goat Cheese, Hemp Seed Cream Cheese and Cheese-Free Cheese Sauce.
Stockeld Dreamery makes feta from peas & fava beans
Stockeld Dreamery, the Swedish startup that recently rebranded from Noquo Foods, has chosen pea protein and fava beans as their star ingredients. Their first product, a 100% plant-based feta cheese, took hundreds of iterations to develop and is made through a fermentation process. The end product is a totally nut-free, vegan feta alternative that rivals the nutrition, taste and look of the real deal, and will soon be making its first debut in Stockholm via a foodservice launch.
Change Foods is changing it up with recombinant proteins
The first and only fermentation dairy startup with a base of operations in Asia-Pacific, Change Foods is an U.S.-Australian food tech using microbial precision fermentation or recombinant technology to make their animal-free cheese. Still in R&D stage, the startup is working to create lactose-free dairy alternatives that are bio-identical to real dairy-based cheeses. Fuelled by US$875,000 in seed funding, Change Foods is currently scaling up its tech, expanding its team and preparing to launch its initial animal-free cheese prototypes.
Spero Foods’ cream cheeses are powered by sunflower seeds
Spero Foods is ditching nuts for sunflower seeds, all in the name of making plant-based dairy affordable to all. Founded by former Cornell University researcher Phäedra Randolph, who believes that the use of nuts as the primary base for vegan cheeses is making it “prohibitively expensive” for mass consumers, Spero Foods is making their nut-free cost-comparable range of cream cheese out of sunflower seeds, agave, coconut oil and natural flavourings like cinnamon, strawberry powder, herb blends and spices.
Climax Foods is all about the data
Berkeley, California-based food tech Climax Foods is basing their cheese on one primary technological ingredient – data. The startup, the brainchild of former Google, SpaceX and Impossible Foods scientist Dr. Oliver Zahn, is harnessing data science and machine learning frameworks to find out the perfect formulation to create the most delicious plant-based cheese. Taking home US$7.5 million in September last year, the company is now hard at work to develop a vegan-friendly alternative to aged cheese – and we can’t wait to hear about what will no doubt be a unique ingredient list.
*Botanically cashews and almonds are classified as seeds due to the fact that they grow inside their respective fruits, but in common parlance (and in culinary and food circles) they are grouped as nuts, see: Wikipedia.
Lead image courtesy of Stockeld Dreamery.