Miyoko’s Creamery Launches First Product Range Since Namesake Founder’s Exit and Lawsuit
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Months after resolving all legal disputes with its namesake founder Miyoko Schinner, alt-dairy pioneer Miyoko’s Creamery has launched its first new product range. The cashew-based Plant Milk Cheese Spreads herald a new era for the company and its CEO Stuart Kronauge.
Miyoko’s new cheese spreads, which are inspired by its artisanal cheese wheels and Roadhouse Cheddar offering, employ traditional cheesemaking techniques using a base of organic cashew milk. The new range has four flavours: classic chive, garlic and herb, sundried tomato and Roadhouse Cheddar.
The latter is the star of the lineup and packs a bold, sharp Cheddary flavour. Its ingredient list comprises cashew milk, coconut oil, rice miso, and natural flavourings, colour and cultures. The move comes a year and a half after the company unprecedentedly withdrew its vegan shreds and slices from the market to return to its traditional roots.
“I promise that we will honour the art and craft of cheesemaking, discovering the most nutrient-dense plant milks and transforming them into cheese through natural fermentation, coagulation and ageing to express their unique identity and flavour,” then-CEO Miyoko Schinner had said at the time.
A lot has happened since then. Schinner is no longer at the company she founded in 2014, having been ousted last June and sued by the business’s board earlier this year for an alleged breach of contract, a violation of trade secrets, and stealing company IP.
Miyoko’s vs Miyoko
This included Schinner’s alleged failure to return confidential items that included R&D materials like “proprietary recipes and plant-based culture configurations”, which is why Miyoko’s Creamery said it “was forced to bring this action to protect its trade secrets and confidential information”.
Schinner said she was “blindsided” by the lawsuit, and confirmed that “we did not arrive at this point by my choosing”. “As we worked to grow the business, conflict grew around the best path forward for future growth while continuing to live our values, founded on the principles of veganism and animal rights, as well as our B Corp status,” she wrote in a LinkedIn post. “That we find ourselves here is representative of the extent to which my views and approach have not always prevailed (especially in the past two years).”
A month later, Schinner countersued the company she founded, alleging that sexism led to her dismissal. She claimed she was forced out after filing multiple HR complaints about recently hired male executives who discriminated against women. She accused COO René Weber (who joined the company in 2021) of mistreating women, excluding them from meetings and withholding critical information. This made it “impossible for her to continue to effectively do her job”, the lawsuit stated.
It added that Weber “openly denigrated women, their expertise and their contributions at Miyoko’s, calling some ‘stupid’ and ‘terrible'” – terms Schinner said Weber never used about men. She added that Weber “mansplained” to her that she didn’t understand the products or company she had founded: “In a markedly gendered tone, he described her ideas and ambition as unrealistic, driven by emotion and whim.” (Weber is still at the company in the same role.)
And after Schinner allegedly raised an HR complaint against operations consultant John Zabrodsky, hired at the request of one of the company’s investors, she said the vegan cheese producer “swiftly retaliated against [Schinner] by demoting her and then terminating her”.
The Miyoko’s Creamery board of directors says Schinner’s exit from the company came as she lacked the necessary skills to take the company to the next level as its CEO.
Turning a new corner
In May, however, there appeared to be a resolution between the two parties, both having withdrawn legal claims and settled their disputes. “Miyoko’s Creamery and Miyoko Schinner are pleased that they have resolved all legal disputes between them and that they have withdrawn all legal claims made against each other,” a joint statement read.
“Miyoko’s Creamery acknowledges the tremendous creativity, hard work, and integrity of its founder, Miyoko Schinner, a true pioneer in vegan creamery products, and appreciates her many contributions to the company over the years.”
The company, which has products in over 20,000 retailers worldwide (and 25,000 stores across the US), also unveiled fresh branding with a new-look website and packaging, and in August, appointed former Beyond Meat CMO Stuart Kronauger as CEO. The new Plant Milk Cheese Spreads, which are priced at $6.49 per 8oz container, are the first under her reign.
The company received B Corp status in 2019, and two years later, it won a legal battle against the State of California that granted the company permission to use the term “butter” on its product labels. In 2022, Miyoko’s Creamery raised nearly $7M in equity from undisclosed investors, with one estimate revealing the company has received over $78.6M in funding since its founding. According to Dealroom, the company was worth $260M in June 2022.