Vegan cheese made from hemp and cauliflower instead of nuts is poised to become the next big trend in the dairy-free case as Los Angeles-based Grounded Foods has raised $2.5 million in pre-Series A funding, the company announced this week.
The female-led startup says the new funding, which comes on the heels of the brand’s retail launch, will aid in its expansion plans, including the European market. The round was led by Big Idea Ventures, Stray Dog Capital, Route 66 Ventures, Nucleus Capital, Kale United, and Presight Capital.
“We look for outlier entrepreneurs who have the potential to make a global impact”, Fabian Hansen, Founding Partner of Presight Capital, said in a statement. “Grounded® addresses an immediate need in the market for high quality, nutritious and sustainable dairy cheese alternatives—and due to the scalability of their process, we see enormous potential for the company to expand not only in the U.S. market but internationally.”
Cheese without compromise
According to Grounded, which launched in 2019, its cheeses mimic the taste and texture of dairy by using a proprietary fermentation process. The hemp and cauliflower base makes it an option for people with both nut and dairy sensitivities. Both Fil and her husband, who is also Grounded’s co-founder, chef Shaun Quade, are not vegan. “[W]e’re not willing to compromise at all when it comes to cheese,” Fil told Food Navigator earlier this year.
“So we’re going after mainstream consumers that are completely unwilling to compromise, in the same way that Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods have. I don’t think it would be genuine for us to market ourselves and the brand as vegan and go after a vegan audience because that’s not us. We’re just people that really love food.”
According to Grounded, nut and oil-based cheeses have struggled to break into the mainstream market. Quade says his recipes rival real dairy as the cheeses “recreate” the sensory experience of traditional cheese. This, the company says, makes it a better candidate to reach the crossover flexitarian consumer.
“Shaun was creating things people didn’t even realize were dairy-free, they were just incredible,” Fil told Food Navigator. “I was working at a marketing agency at the time and worked with a lot of clients in the food and beverage space, and I started thinking he’s really onto something here.
Quade formulates Grounded cheeses by using a fermentation process that taps into the fat and protein in hemp in order to mimic dairy. Flavor comes from cauliflower leaves and stems, something the brand says also helps eliminate the need for any artificial flavor compounds. The company sources imperfect caulilfower that would otherwise be headed to landfills.
Fil says the brand is excited about the potential of hemp seeds, too.
“Hemp is an unbelievably under-explored ingredient in food and I think we’re only just starting to scratch the surface of what it can do. For cheeses, it has this unbelievable creaminess, it creates a beautiful silky texture and mouthfeel you don’t get with a nut paste, and we’re super psyched by its potential in terms of nutrition as well – protein, calcium, vitamins and minerals and so on.”
Grounded’s current offerings are available at Whole Foods, Bristol Farms, and Harmon’s.
images courtesy Grounded Foods