VegfestUK Trade will be open for free registration for Trade and Media professionals from July 1st 2017 at www.trade.vegfest.co.uk/registration
Tony Bishop-Weston Vegan is consultant development chef with Foods for Life Health and Nutrition, author and former business development advisor with The Vegan Society and The Vegetarian Society. @bishopweston
Last year there was a seismic shift in how easy and convenient it was to be vegan. Dairy-free vegan cheese became easily available in towns all over the UK as vegan alternatives steal market share from the dairy industry. New vegan cheeses melt and taste like cheese, and there’s more than one variety and the ubiquitous excuse about struggling to be vegan because of a cheese addiction melted like the wicked witch in the Wizard of Oz. It became weirder for a supermarket or restaurant not to have vegan cheese than to have it.
In the early 1940s Donald Watson and friends argued that it wasn’t consistently logical for dairy based vegetarianism to be argued using an animal cruelty standpoint. Inevitably, commercially, a cow won’t provide milk if it hasn’t had a baby, and if you are going to steal the milk for sale, not allow the calf to drink it, the calf will be killed. It can be argued the dairy industry is actually crueller than the beef industry because after a few years of intensive milk production cows are turned into meat anyway.
Many new consumers get it. Whether you avoid meat for environmental, health or animal cruelty grounds, it makes no sense to replace meat with cheese.
There’s absolutely no doubt that now dairy-free vegan cheese has moved up a level on taste with a myriad of realistic flavours, textures, in some cases using realistic moulds and bacteria, as well as the ability to melt like cheese, the sky’s the limit. Both retailers and chefs and caterers who should know better have been routinely surprised by demand for their new products and menu items.
Italian styled restaurant chain Zizzi’s originally planned for 1kg of dairy-free rice milk based mozzarella per restaurant per week. Within weeks they were using 4kg a week. In January 2017 they saw sales of vegan menu items rise by a further 150%.
When Sainsbury’s first launched their range of plant-based vegan cheeses it was hard to buy it as it seemed to be selling out as fast as it arrived in the stores. It was later widely reported that Sainsbury’s had underestimated demand by a whopping 300%.
In New York, Michaela Grob has started a Vegan Cheese shop. Riverdel carries the largest selection of vegan cheeses imaginable. They make their own in-house cheeses and offer made-to-order vegan cheese sandwiches!
In London, Pret a Manger 100% vegetarian store Veggie Pret was originally only a month’s project. Not only was Veggie Pret quickly made permanent they soon opened another. The top 5 bestselling products were all vegan and now Pret has added a vegan ‘Mac n cheese’ to the menu. Pret’s CEO, Clive Schlee, admitted he is trying to eat less meat. In the Guardian, he said: “Of course there are good reasons to eat less meat. Aside from the animal welfare arguments, the UN says that the single most important step an individual can take to reduce global warming is to adopt a meat and dairy-free diet.”
Pizza Express have announced they will be stocking dairy free vegan mozzarella in their restaurants that you can substitute vegan cheese on most of their menu items to make the bulk of their menu vegan.
Sainsbury’s set social media alight when they launched their new range of vegan cheeses that quickly got renamed ‘Gary’ after an indignant cheese lover had her bluff called. Susi Richards, Sainsbury’s head of product development, admits: “Plant-based eating is taking the health world by storm and there’s a fundamental shift in how people are looking at their plates.”
Laura Edwards, Public Relations Officer at Bute Island Foods who make the vegan cheese for Tesco and Sainsbury says, on social media at least, the favourite vegan cheese flavours seem to be the new Jalapeño cheese in Tesco and the garlic and herb cream cheese style.
VBites say their White Cheddar is still the favourite although their mozzarella, Italian hard cheese and soya-free are climbing up the charts on their bestseller list.
UK artisan cheese makers such as Tyne Chease are following the lead of Kite Hill in California using traditional French traditions to create new flavours and textures. At VegfestUK Trade, you can find authentic tasting camembert style nut based cheeses and even mouldy blue vegan cheeses.
In Holland, the supermarkets haven’t quite caught up with Tesco and Sainsbury’s but vegan cheeses are available there in health food shops. We found some vegan ‘goat style’ cheese in a farm shop.
Hamutal Schieber, Founder & CEO of Schieber Research, an expert in consumer goods, marketing strategy, trends and innovation says: “The PBM (plant based milk) rise indicates that consumers want to consume more plant-based products, and if given a proper variety and ease of shopping, the plant-based swap is likely to succeed”. – May 2017
Menu analyst and Kruse Company owner, Nancy Kruse agrees. She revealed her list of key driving trends at the National Restaurant Association show in Chicago;
Nancy told chefs and restaurant owners “The days of vegetarians and vegans being seen as wacky “outliers” have ended. Increasingly, the traditional question of “beef or chicken?” for dinner is giving way to “beets or carrots?”, Kruse said. Today, 3–5% of Americans are vegetarians, and 2–3% are vegans who refuse to consume any animal-sourced products in any way.
British cheese exports currently sit at no 4 in the top 10 of UK food exports. (BBC News May 17, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-40090366). Let’s hope the UK dairy free vegan cheese industry can munch it’s way into the majority share of that £145 million saving the planet, health and the needless torture of animals in the process.
See more on dairy free vegan foods at http://vegfestexpress.co.uk/tabs/blog/2017/02/the-future-of-milk—dairy-milk-vs-plant-milk
VegfestUK Trade will consist of up to 160 stalls with some of the hottest vegan cheeses and other cutting edge vegan brands, alongside 6 featured areas of panel discussions by experts in the vegan Trade and Media circles sharing their insights in managing vegan businesses and accessing the growing vegan market. In particular, there will be a vegan cheese making workshop and tasting session by a panel of industry experts in the vegan cheese market, in the Plant-Based Chef Corner.
Trade and Media professionals can register to attend for free from July 1st 2017 at www.trade.vegfest.co.uk/registration