Canadian plant-based cheesemaker Nuts For Cheese has netted $5.35 million in a fresh funding round led by Forage Capital Partners. CPG experts Mike Fata and Dror Balshine are confirmed to have participated alongside. The investment has been earmarked for expanding the company’s vegan cheese manufacturing capabilities, plus its distribution network.
Nuts For Cheese manufactures its range of cashew-based cheeses and butter in-house, all of which are certified organic and made without starches, filler, artificial flavours or gums. In line with increased product demand, the startup, founded in 2015, is looking to exponentially increase its production facilities, including acquiring new equipment and upgrading existing lines. A board of directors will also be put in place, led by Fata.
The evolution of an alternative dairy brand
Nuts For Cheese started life in a vegan home kitchen. Gaining traction, the company was quickly in a position to construct its own manufacturing facility. This was considered a common sense next move, to preserve the “integrity of the recipes and chef-grade quality” that came from developing house-made cultures for use in products. Today, Nuts For Cheese is regarded as a respected name within the vegan dairy sector and is ready for its next growth phase.
“From the early days I’ve worked hard to surround myself with the right partners,” Margaret Coons, CEO and founder of Nuts For Cheese said in a statement. “It’s been such a journey, from a rented commercial kitchen to building out our current 25,000 square foot facility. What once looked huge to me is now quickly becoming ready for more expansion. This investment comes at a perfect time for us to be able to keep pace with our growth and I couldn’t be happier partnering with a company like Forage which has extensive experience in the food space and such an incredible team.”
Forage confirms that it is similarly excited by the partnership, hailing the startup as a real food alternative to traditional cheeses for discerning consumers.
Nuts For Cheese is currently stocked in more than 1,900 outlets in Canada, including Sobey’s and Save On Foods. The U.S. boasts close to 2,000 locations with Whole Foods Market and Sprouts Farmer’s Market included. The new funding will be used to secure more distributors.
The need for unconventional dairy products
The global cheese market was valued at more than $77.6 billion in 2021 and is predicted to reach more than $113 billion by 2027. Meat and dairy combined account for 14.5 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions, with cheese ranking third after lamb and beef in the CO2 stakes. A life-cycle analysis performed by the Environmental Working Group revealed that 13.5 kilos of CO2 equivalent is generated for every kilo of product eaten. This is worse than pork, chicken and salmon.
Reducing intake of dairy has environmental and health benefits but lovers of conventional cheese frequently cite it as the last hurdle that prevents them from embracing a fully plant-based diet. The rise in artisanal vegan cheese, made using traditional cheesemaking techniques, brings consumers a step closer to animal-free dairy without compromising on taste or texture.
Fancy plant-based cheeses becoming more accessible
Just as Nuts For Cheese is looking to widen its distribution network, so too are other artisan startups. In the U.K., La Fauxmagerie recently confirmed it is working with supermarket chain Waitrose to offer high-end plant-based cheeses to shoppers. The brand has been creating artisanal cheeses for four years, initially selling via local food markets. The distribution deal with Waitrose is indicative of the massive shift in consumer demand for plant-based alternatives.
Earlier this month, Swedish alternative dairy startup Stockeld Dreamery revealed it has successfully made its first vegan cream cheese analogue. Using fermented chickpeas and lentils, amongst other ingredients, the product follows a successful launch of vegan feta.
All photos by Nuts For Cheese, unless stated.