Montreal-headquartered dairy company Saputo has acquired Bute Island Foods, the Scottish firm behind the legacy vegan cheese brand Sheese. As the plant-based trend continues to gain momentum, Saputo says it remains committed to “expand our footprint in the dairy alternatives space to meet the changing demands of our customers”.
Saputo announced on Tuesday (May 25) that it has purchased Bute Island Foods, the manufacturer and marketer of a number of plant-based cheese brands under its brand Sheese. Sheese was first launched on the market in 1988 as a soy-based product, and is now known for its coconut oil-based vegan cheese products.
The Scottish company has expanded its global distribution from several European markets to Canada, Australia, South Africa and a number of Asian countries in recent years, and now boasts a workforce of 180 employees. While all plant-based segments have seen rapid growth, industry experts say that vegan cheese is set to become one of the fastest-growing of all.
Our commitment remains to expand our footprint in the dairy alternatives space to meet the changing demands of our customers and consumers.Lino A. Saputo, CEO, Saputo
Recent estimates puts the current global vegan cheese market at US$2.7 billion, but say the figure will double to US$4.5 billion by as soon as 2025.
Saputo’s decision to further add Sheese to its existing dairy-free acquisitions, which includes British plant-based spread and cheese brand Vitalite, said it comes in response to the shifting demand from its customers for healthier, sustainable and dairy-free alternatives.
Last year, the dairy industry suffered from coronavirus-related supply chain disruptions, further adding to the dairy producers’ headaches after years of declining demand due to increasingly health and planet-conscious consumers.
“We are delighted to welcome the Bute Island Foods team…Our commitment remains to expand our footprint in the dairy alternatives space to meet the changing demands of our customers and consumers,” said Lino A. Saputo, CEO of Saputo.
“This investment marks an important milestone that will allow us to accelerate our growth in this area globally, putting innovation at the forefront of our priorities.”
This investment marks an important milestone that will allow us to accelerate our growth in this area globally, putting innovation at the forefront of our priorities.Lino A. Saputo, CEO, Saputo
As part of the acquisition, Saputo says it will also be donating around CA$5 million (US$4.1 million) over the next five years to support local community initiatives in Bute Island, where the Sheese-owner is based.
“Community engagement is important to Saputo who strives to invest 1% of its pre-tax profits each year in community programs and organisations that promote a healthy lifestyle for people of all ages,” said the Canadian dairy giant.
Saputo isn’t the only established dairy company to make moves in the dairy-free direction in a bid to stay relevant to consumers, with French dairy conglomerate Bel Group introducing the company’s first exclusively vegan cheese line Nurishh in April.
The move came shortly after Bel Group revealed its plans to develop vegan versions of all its iconic brands, among them Babybel and The Laughing Cow.
Big food corporation Danone has also ramped up its vegan dairy offerings, expanding its subsidiary So Delicious’ plant-based cheese range earlier in January, and acquiring Earth Island, the maker of legacy plant-based brand Follow Your Heart and its range of vegenaise, vegan salad dressings and egg alternatives.
Lead image courtesy of Bute Island Foods.