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19 Nov, 2019 | 2 minute read
With plant-based milks on the increase and many people ditching dairy altogether, the food industry has seen a large rise in the number of dairy-free cheese brands over the past couple of years. According to one recent survey from Blue Diamond Almonds, one in five Britons planned to ‘ditch dairy’ in 2018. This is a startling statistic, which is being fuelled by the rise in vegan diets as well as those opting to go ‘free from’. This pattern is mirrored throughout much of Western Europe and the US and shows no sign of levelling off yet.
This change in the food industry has also seen an increase in the popularity of vegan food festivals. I had the pleasure of attending the 100% vegan festival ‘VegFest’ this year in London, along with around 14,500 other attendees. It takes place over the course of three days and visitors can discover new brands, say hello to the brands they already know and love, buy their favourite products and spend the day trying samples of various vegan foods or full meals with friends. Considering there are now 3.5 million vegans in Great Britain alone it was no surprise that VegFest was a little busier than it was in 2017. However, the biggest thing that stood out to me was the number of vegan cheese stalls.
In 2017 the only plant-based cheese I knew about was Violife. A brand that makes cheddar-like cheese from coconut oil, starch and flavourings, well known in the wider world due to their branding and marketing. Despite being the most popular brand of vegan cheese, already stocked in all the big UK supermarkets, for me the product itself was just lacking a little something. It didn’t melt quite as well as I wanted it to, and the starch content made it quite rubbery in texture.
Being vegan isn’t about depriving yourself of the finer things in life, I still crave a cheese that delivers indulgence with complex flavour notes that, importantly, tastes like cheese!
One year later, VegFest was bursting with countless new brands. Gone are the uninspiring blocks of beige, instead welcome camembert, ricotta, mozzarella, cream cheese, cheddar… the list goes on! And best of all? A lot of the cheeses actually melted, properly. My favourite melting cheeses were the ‘Green Goddess Basil Moxarella’ from Black Arts Vegan, and the ‘Mozzarella Style Grated Sheese’ by Bute Island that features on One Planet Pizza’s vegan pizza – my favourite.
New Roots was another brand that I came across; interestingly, they make their cheeses in the same way as the dairy variety, using cashew milk instead of animals’, resulting in a product that looks identical, and even better tastes extremely similar to, dairy cheese. I tried their ricotta and camembert, bagging one of each to take home and devour later. The ricotta was creamy, spread easily and tasted incredible. It even got a thumbs up from someone who does eat dairy cheese, which can only be a good sign! Their camembert had the skin around it that you’d expect, the texture was just like dairy-cheese, and I found myself ordering more once I’d finished it.
You can see the excitement on people’s faces when they find a dairy-free cheese that melts, tastes like dairy or is in the style of a cheese we’re all familiar with. Being one of the things people find most difficult to give up when deciding to ditch dairy, this rise in variety and development in texture and taste is brilliant news for those switching to a diet closer to plant-based, and exciting news for brands looking to play in this area.
I’m already excited for VegFest 2019 and all the new vegan innovations that will be available by then!
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