This Brooklyn Startup Makes Vegan Mozzarella For Pizzerias. Now It’s Going For More Cheese.

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Numu, a plant-based cheese startup based in Brooklyn, New York, has just closed its Series A funding round. The food tech is behind the vegan mozzarella made for foodservice, currently served across pizzerias in New York. Now, fuelled with fresh funds, Numu wants to not only get its vegan mozzarella onto more menus, but to begin developing more dairy-free cheeses for restaurants.

Numu has closed an undisclosed amount of funding in its Series A, co-led by Unovis Asset Management and Clear Current Capital, two alternative protein VCs that lists Miyoko’s Creamery, Kite Hill, Alpha Foods and Good Catch among some of the funds’ investments. The New York-based brand says that it will be using the funding to ramp up distribution of its vegan mozzarella, as well as invest in product development. 

Vegan mozzarella

Numu first landed on the market in 2016, launching its 100% vegan mozzarella made for pizzerias and foodservice vendors. Founded by Gunars Elmuts, who was frustrated by the lack of vegan options at late-night convenient chains and pizza shops, Numu is designed as a substitute for cheese on pizzas, lasagnes and sandwiches. 

Pizza served at Fornino topped with Numu vegan cheese.

The brand’s vegan mozzarella cheese is made from potato starch, soybeans and coconut oil, and is 100% lactose-free, dairy-free, nut-free and contains only non-GMO plant ingredients. 

Numu says that its cheese was developed to be functional and versatile, delivering the meltability and gooey-ness of real dairy-based mozzarella cheese without any aftertaste—a common issue when it comes to convincing mainstream consumers to go for the vegan cheese option.

Currently, Numu is served across some of the biggest pizza chains in New York, including Motorino, Fornino and Zazzy’s. Nationwide, the brand is used by Whole Foods Market’s pizza bars. It is also available in pizzerias in New Jersey, Long Island and several other states, and select locations in Canada. 

Launching more plant-based cheeses

Numu’s vegan mozzarella is sold to foodservice companies in blocks, slices or shreds.

Numu says that it plans on continuing its distribution growth across the country, making its vegan mozzarella cheese available to more mainstream consumers in the US and Canada. But it also plans to double down on R&D to develop even more vegan cheese alternatives to offer extra choices to restaurants and diners. 

“This is an exciting time for NUMU as we continue to develop the brand and expand our distribution,” shared Elmuts. “We are well-positioned to bring NUMU to a much wider audience.”

Elmuts added that partnering with Unovis and Clear Current will accelerate its growth strategy, given the investors’ strong food tech experience, including with vegan dairy leaders like Miyoko’s, Kite Hill and Oatly among Unovis’ portfolio companies, while Clear Current has backed precision fermentation cheese firm Change Foods. 

According to a press statement, Numu will be “actively developing a number of other varieties of plant-based cheese” in the coming months. 

Numu plans on expanding the number of locations where its vegan mozzarella is served.

Investing in vegan fromage

With the plant-based cheese segment representing one of the fastest-growing within the vegan food space, investors are pouring more capital into the space. Driven by demand from mainstream flexitarians, experts estimate that the market for vegan cheese is set to grow to $4.5 billion by 2025. 

Other successful rounds raised by vegan cheese makers in recent weeks include Swedish startup Stockeld Dreamery, which makes feta out of peas and fava beans, as well as Miyoko’s latest Series C and spreadable artisan cheese brand Misha’s Kind Foods’ seed funding.  

Speaking about its decision to back Numu, Mark Langley, managing partner at Unovis said: “About two-thirds of the world’s population is lactose intolerant, yet non-dairy cheese is still a rarity in pizza shops. The NUMU team has created a truly differentiated product with high performing melt, stretch, and taste qualities for pizzerias.”


All images courtesy of Numu.


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