The UK’s first vegan cheesemonger has certainly started with a bang, stirring discord among the traditional dairy industry. Dairy UK, which represents farmer-owned co-ops and private companies, wrote to the shop owners, sisters Charlotte and Rachel Stevens, asking them to remove any reference to cheese from their website and signage. The industry body said it contravened EU rules that protect dairy terms and claimed that the describing their plant-based wares as cheese was misleading to consumers.
But Dairy UK’s challenge to the plant-based cheesemonger may have been counterproductive, with a slew of national media coverage bringing the store to prominence. Since openin gLa Fauxmagerie two weeks ago in Brixton the sisters have completely sold out, with 70% of people looking for a cheddar, blue or camembert, reported The Guardian. However, a survey from YouGov showed that Dairy UK may have general public support, with a majority of Brits (59%) saying it was is not okay to describe the plant-based variety as cheese, although a quarter of those polled had no problem with it.
Rachel, who used to work for Marks & Spencer, told The Times it was clear that their name was a pun and the business was selling dairy-free products – with the sisters wanting to make the best dairy-free cheese brands accessible in one place. “We are not misleading and the claim that we are discredits the consumers and underestimates the intelligence of our customers. It all seems a little unnecessary,” she said.“People are generally aware that plant-based means non-dairy. Peanut butter doesn’t include butter and when people ask for a soy latte at Costa, they ask for soya milk — not blended soya beans.”
While the Stevens sisters certainly want to encourage more consumers to consider going plant-based, Charlotte actually has a severe lactose intolerance, while Rachel only went fully vegan in January. Their aims is to tackle the poor image that most vegan cheese currently suffers from as badly textured, poor tasting and almost synthetic, particularly as it is seen as one of the biggest barriers to people fully embracing plant-based eating. Mintel reports that one in six consumers are interested in dairy-free cheese, while new vegan cheese products doubled in the first eight months of last year.
La Fauxmagerie’s products are mostly sourced from small suppliers, with ingredients like soy, brown rice, cashew nuts, almonds, coconut oil and nutritional yeast.
Food Spark takes a look at some of the vegan cheese brands in their stable.
Started from a small flat in Angel in 2017 with cheese sold at local markets, this company now has its own commercial kitchen in East London. It makes nine varieties of dairy-free cheese, including a spirulina blue especially for La Fauxmagerie.
Other products include a feta-inspired cheese with a salty made with ingredient like almonds, agar and pink and black peppercorns, which is marinated in oil with garlic and herbs, along with a nacho dip with a cashew-base and additions such as apple cider vinegar, nutritional yeast, smoked paprika, chilli powder, mustard powder and turmeric.
Baked and marinated carrots make their Faux Lox cheese, with zesty lemon and fresh dill, while others driven by cashew-bases include their farmhouse spread which has a cheddar-inspired flavor; a white cheddar and cranberry cheese; and a chilli cheese made with guajillo and ancho chillies.
I Am Nut Ok
Crafted in Hackney, this brand describes its plant-based cheeses as more daring than dairy by using inventive visual and flavour combinations. “Our cheeses go through a process of fermentation and ageing, then are given extra notes of flavour with herbs, spices, and various tasty gems found in the plant kingdom,” the brand said.
The company is also having fun with their product names with cream cheese options like Cashewlater, a garlicky herby variety made with coconut oil, tapioca, nutritional yeast, rice miso, beetroot powder and lactic acid, along with its Smokeydokey variety flavoured with paprika.
Their signature cheese is the Minerthreat, a bold, smoky cashew cheese ripened in a coat of activated coconut charcoal ash, featuring a black vein running down the centre, while its G.O.A.T is an Italian herb cashew cheese. Other options include a black pepper crust, a chipotle flavouring with goji berries and a black cheese with truffle and turmeric.
Made in the North East of England from organic ingredients by a family run business, its range includes a cashew truffle cheese, a paprika-infused variety, a firm cream cheese topped with pink peppercorn, and other products containing cranberry, chives, garlic, rosemary and sundried tomatoes.
Culturally-inspired cheese also abounds in the range. One conjured is from childhood memories of growing up in Ethiopia with a blend of spices including cumin, coriander, fenugreek, pepper, ginger, thyme, cloves, nutmeg, cayenne pepper and allspice, while another has a Middle Eastern fusion of za’atar.
Moving away from cashews, Tyne Chease also turns to macadamia nuts to create a range of cheeses too.
Black Arts Vegan
After a decade in biological sciences, this creator left to make cheesy textures and flavours in plant-based. Its signature range will melt and brown under a hot grill and will stay gooey in a toastie, according to the brand. It also has a range of tofu-based, spreadable cheeses, all their products are soy-based and most are completely nut-free, making it stand out from many of those that are nut driven.
Its Red Queen is a semi-mild cheese with notes of mustard and a fiery kick of spicy smoked paprika boasting a smooth and creamy texture and Smoke on the Water is a red, sharp cheddar with a rock and roll hit of Hickory smoke.
Also in the range is a a Mediterranean influenced, ricotta-style cheese, rather like a Cypriot Anari, which is soy-based, with a fresh flavour of salt and mint, while a cheese called Cupid is creamy and bold with a pop of sweet apricot, ending with notes of citrus and cardamom.