The increasing appetite for plant-based has seen a raft of new food launches, with dairy-free a big contributor to this category.
In particular, vegan cheese has taken off in a big way, with the global market predicted to be worth just under $4bn by 2024, according to a report by research firm Bharat Book. At the start of the year, Sainsbury's reported that sales of its vegan cheeses had surpassed the company's predictions by 300%, and the dairy-free staple is also popping up on restaurant menus around the country.
Dairy-alternative brand Nush recently launched a vegan spreadable ‘chese’ in two flavours into Whole Foods. Started by former police officers Bethany and Paul Eaton, the new range allowed the couple to enter the £2.8bn cheese category, with soft white cheese the fourth most popular cheese on the market – worth £228.5mn in sales alone, according to the company.
Nush, which also makes almond and cashew-based yoghurts, is projected to reach a turnover of £2m in the next 12 months. Food Spark speaks to its co-founder Bethany about making vegan products before the boom and the challenges in dairy-free.
How have vegan products changed since you launched your first nut milk yoghurts in 2016?
The category has evolved significantly over recent years with more people turning to veganism than ever before. Previously, there were very limited vegan products on the market and it was considered a ‘niche’ category. However, there is now a huge variety of great-tasting offerings that consumers are incorporating into daily life, either to harness the nutritional benefits or because of intolerances. They have more choice than ever before.
To align with this trend, Nush expanded its range this year and entered two new categories: children’s and cheese. In April 2018, we launched the Nush In A Rush range, the UK’s first range of dairy-free yoghurt tubes designed to enjoy on the go. Available in two varieties, strawberry tubes and blueberry tubes, the range is designed to be eaten spoon-free but in a mess-free and convenient format.
The spreadable ‘chese‘ range is designed to be enjoyed as a direct replacement for dairy and can be used in a multitude of ways, whether it’s spread on an oatcake or used for creating dishes in the kitchen.
How was your ‘chese’ developed? What was the reason for creating it?
We always wanted to create a vegan cheese offering with almonds and it was something that Paul and I were looking to develop for some time. Like yoghurt, cheese is also a staple ingredient in many people’s daily diet, so it seemed like a natural progression for the range to expand in this direction.
Since launching the brand in 2016, my husband Paul and I were experimenting with different cheese recipes, and we decided that the two flavours, natural and chive, were the perfect SKUs to introduce. Each 150g pot contains 60 Sicilian almonds, and the delicate flavour profile and creamy texture makes it a versatile cooking ingredient.
Many people use the range as a culinary staple to be enjoyed throughout the week, for a lunchtime sandwich or jacket potato filler, or spread on a bagel with sliced banana for breakfast.
What are some of the challenges of creating vegan products for the dairy category?
At Nush, we are committed to only using the very finest ingredients and this means that they can sometimes be more difficult to source.
Our Nush range of almond milk yoghurts are made using avola almonds. We’re the only brand in the world to use these almonds and the ones we use are harvested from a family farm in Sicily, off the coast of Southern Italy. They are the most sustainable almonds in the world, using less water in the cultivation process than the widely used Californian type, which require a gallon of water to grow a single nut.
The almonds are a great source of hunger-satisfying protein, Vitamin E, potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorous and iron.
Why do you think consumers are looking for more plant-based and vegan options?
A lot of this is down to consumers being more educated about the benefits of plant-based diets than ever before.
We are also seeing more mainstream consumers adopting vegetarian, vegan and flexitarian diets not only due to intolerances, but because they prefer the food and it makes them feel healthier. Based on this, these consumers don’t want to have to compromise and want delicious and interesting plant-based and vegan alternatives. People are also much more open-minded and experimental when trying different vegan and free-from products than ever before.