Cow’s based cheese is one of the most consumed and beloved food in the world. Total U.S. per capita consumption of natural cheese reached a record 33.7 pounds in 2013. This was 0.4 percent higher than 2012 when the previous record high was set.
Recently, however, the panorama has started to shift. Plant based cheese is gaining significant momentum and funding from some large and well-known players. General Mills’ investment arm, 301, just led an 18 million dollar round of investment for the plant based company Kite Hill, only the fifth for the investment group.
“Plant-based used to be more synonymous with sacrifice than with taste,” said John Haugen, vice president and general manager of 301 INC, General Mills’ venture capital arm to the New York Times. “Now, companies like Kite Hill are able to deliver plant based products that taste good.”
Clayton Christopher, who sold his Sweet Leaf Tea to Nestlé and then last year sold Deep Eddy Vodka for almost $400 million to a Kentucky distiller, is among the founders of CAVU Venture Partners.
CAVU, which announced a $156 million fund to invest in food and beverage businesses this year, has joined General Mills in the Kite Hill investment. (Khosla Ventures, a major Silicon Valley investment firm, and a handful of other investors also put in a small amount.)
On the other hand, another plant based manufacturer, Miyoko’s Kitchen was named by Food & Wine Magazine as one of seven vegan products to buy now (Kite Hill’s almond yogurt was another). Miyoko’s Kitchen manufactures artisan plant-based cheeses, makes a mac & cheese sauce and recently launched a “european style” butter that won the Nexty award at the Natural Products Expo West. Miyoko Skinner told FoodAmerica that she expects vegan cheese to “be mainstream in the next 5-10 yrs”
Meanwhile, category leader Daiya just launched more products in their cheese lineup and i, such as Follow your Heart, Field Roast, Treeline and Heidi Homainstream cheese casee products, it won’s in 20,000 restaurants and chains (according to this article.) “Food service is our heritage and we started servicing restaurants in 2009,” says Chriss Montalbano, the company’s North American Business Development Manager.
Companies that work with Daiya products include Aramark, Blaze Pizza, Disney, Citifield, Mellow Mushroom, Pieology, Sodexo, Sysco, U.C. Berkeley, and Uncle Maddio’s Pizza Joint, among others. The company just announced its partnership with Pie Five Pizza last week — another fast-fired pie chain. Daiya is working to expand more into traditional food service operations, as well.
With Companies like General Mills and investment firms such as Khosla behind dairy free products, it won’t be long before the other notable competitors in this space, such as Follow your Heart, Field Roast, Treeline and Heidi Ho gain access to the mainstream cheese case.