3 Mins Read
French cheese giant Bel Group has launched a vegan Babybel. The dairy-free snack cheese has been touted for a few months, and the launch coincides with Veganuary. U.K. consumers are the first in the world to have access to the product.
U.S. consumers will be forced to wait for an overseas launch, but one is planned. Bel Brands’ Babybel mini hard cheese wheels have become culturally iconic. Recognisable for their red wax coating and lunchbox-friendly size, they are popular with consumers of all ages. Bel Brands has teased the development of a dairy-free option for years.
A surge in vegan cheese
The release of vegan Babybel comes at a strategically notable time. There has been a demonstrable increase in demand for alternative dairy. In 2020, the vegan cheese market was valued at $2.22 billion, with a predicted annual growth rate of 12.4 percent up to 2028.
Nostalgic brands are proving particularly popular. Prior to the debut of vegan Babybel, Paris-based Bel Brands has successfully launched plant-based Boursin in 2021. Laughing Cow triangles have yet to be released in the U.K. market.
“We’ve seen overwhelming demand for the development of a vegan-friendly Babybel over the years,” Ollie Richmond, brand manager for Bel Brands told The Grocer. “With the plant-based market continuing to grow substantially, the new launch is perfectly timed to meet this consumer appetite.”
The vegan Babybels are coconut oil-based and preservative-free, and according to Bel, they contain high levels of B12 and calcium. Alongside coconut oil, Vegan Society-approved ingredients complete the composition. The signature red wax casings have been given a suitably vegan makeover, now popping in green and made from recycled wax materials. Vegan Babybels are being sold in packs of five for £2.00. They can be found in Sainsbury’s supermarkets as of January 1, 2022.
Aldi joins the cheese race
Alongside the launch of vegan Babybel comes Aldi’s first foray into plant-based cheese. The move comes after the Essen-founded supermarket chain impressed with its 2021 range of Plant Menu items. Many were debuted in time for Veganuary. This year sees vegan cheese alongside multiple new freezer additions. A grated cheddar and mature cheddar block are both on sale now. They are priced at £1.39 and are coconut oil-based. Both are listed as gluten and soy-free, accounting for two major allergens.
Aldi has been making steady inroads into the vegan market, globally. In 2020, it announced a partnership with Green Monday to sell Omnipork ready meals in China. Just last year it also unveiled a range of vegan tuna sandwiches for German consumers. BettaF!sh, a berlin-based startup that makes its signature TU-NAH from legumes and seaweed, was partnered with for the launch.
The demand for vegan cheese is driving innovation, as well as redevelopment. Recently it was announced that plant-based dairy stalwart Daiya had reformulated five of its flavours. Adding oats and chickpeas, the company claims to have improved not only taste but texture as well. All major allergens have been carefully avoided. Packaging has been updated to reflect the new ingredients. So far, only U.S. and Canadian markets have access to the new formulations.
All images generated using Bel Brands product pictures.