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Amsterdam’s Mr. & Mrs. Watson has announced the closure of a successful seed funding round. €700,000 was raised to support new product development, international brand marketing and facility improvements. The company is known for its fermented cashew-based cheeses and Amsterdam-based restaurant.
Mr. & Mrs. Watson say scaling its production facilities will be a primary focus, with international distribution hoped to follow after. The product portfolio currently consists of aged wheels, camembert alternatives, vegan mozzarella, and a goat’s cheese replacement. The company is developing a melting cheese with a release expected by summer 2022.
Vegan by name, vegan by nature
Mr. & Mrs. Watson was named after Donald Watson, founder of The Vegan Society, and his wife, Dorothy. It was founded in 2017 and initially bolstered by crowdfunding. The artisanal cheese production company and vegan restaurant were launched together. Cashew-based cheeses are what the company has become most recognised for.
“We want to unleash a cheese revolution, putting the Dutch on the map as front-runners in cheese innovation by leading the protein transition from animal-based to plant-based,” said co-founder Nick Piña in a company statement.
Following a period of steady growth, the company opened a specialist production facility and food lab in 2020. The location was used to develop new products during the Covid-19 lockdowns, which forced its restaurant to close temporarily. Traditional fermentation techniques have been used to transform cashew milk into recognisable cheese formats. The Camembert wheels, for example, include a traditional soft white fungal coating.
The recent seed funding has been earmarked to increase the production hub’s capacity. The food lab will be fully engaged in the creation of a meltable cheese product while facility improvements are made. International product launch is sought but Mr. & Mrs. Watson remains realistic about timescales. It is hoped that global outreach can begin within two years.
“Our plan is to first focus on The Netherlands, Belgium and Germany. Within a year thereafter we will roll out to the rest of Europe and England,” co-founder Kirsi Rautiainen exclusively told Green Queen. “As restaurant owners, the pandemic hit us quite hard during the first lockdown. On the other hand it gave us the opportunity to focus on our scale-up strategy, the retail market and R&D. What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger. Moreover, we believe this crisis will make people more aware of the importance of a healthy and sustainable diet. When we started in 2017, we saw a small but growing group of people adopting a fully vegan diet; mostly young, hip, cosmopolitan women. Now we see a trend of plant-based alternatives being adopted by a wider audience.
“With vegan cheese becoming as mainstream as meat alternatives, we are ready and poised to provide our quality plant-based cheeses to more people looking to make the transition away from animal-based produce, whilst continuing to innovate and develop new cheeses in our food lab.”
Driving the industry forward
Fellow Dutch startups and companies are seeking to push the animal-free agenda. Recent data revealed that more than half the Dutch population support meat reduction initiatives. The government has been making sustainability a key driver alongside consumer shifts. A policy to cut emissions by slashing livestock numbers by 30 percent was unveiled last year. As the E.U’s largest meat exporter, this represents a significant move towards climate recovery commitment. As does the increasing number of vegan companies springing up in the region.
Monkeys by the Sea announced in October last year that it had secured $500,000 in a pre-seed funding round. Investment was led by Willem Blom and was used to support initial product launches. Vegan canned tuna and breaded fish fillets were the chosen showcase releases. The company uses microalgae and seaweed to create its soy and palm oil-free plant-based seafood.
Within the vegan cheese sector, Dutch dairy giant Westland Cheese partnered with Those Vegan Cowboys in 2021. The result was the WildWestLand vegan cheese line that was launched in supermarkets. Albert Heijn, the largest Dutch supermarket chain, is amongst the distributors. The move made Westland the first traditional Dutch dairy producer to embrace plant-based alternatives.
Earlier in 2021, Dutch vegan brand Vivera was acquired by Brazilian meat conglomerate JBS. At the time of the announcement, Vivera was the third-largest plant-based meat brand manufacturer within Europe. It is still in the midst of a three-year €30 million investment program designed to increase product lines, facility capacity and workforce numbers. JBS had previously acquired other plant-based brands including Planterra Foods.
All images courtesy of Mr. & Mrs. Watson.